Sharpton: 'We don't have an epidemic of homophobia' in the black community

The Rev. Al Sharpton pushed back on media reports that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden: Buttigieg 'doesn't have significant black support even in his own city' Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states MORE is struggling to gain traction with black voters in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary because he’s gay, saying homophobia is not unique to the African American community. 

“I wanted to make a statement for the cynics in the media that they try and act like homophobia in the black community is different from homophobia in America. There are some homophobic blacks, and there are some homophobic whites. We don’t have an epidemic of homophobia,” Sharpton said Thursday at a National Action Network event in Atlanta. 

“But we have some homophobics just like any other community. And it is a process that America needs to deal with both in the black and white community.” 

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The civil rights leader's remarks come in response to reports speculating that Buttigieg’s sexual orientation could be a barrier in his attempts to appeal to black voters, particularly older black voters. The South Bend, Ind., mayor is the only openly gay candidate in the 2020 Democratic field.

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the third highest ranking Democrat in the House, also said earlier this month that there was “no question” Buttigieg’s sexual orientation was a problem among older African Americans, calling it a “generational” issue. 

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you otherwise, because I think everybody knows that’s an issue. But I’m saying it’s an issue not the way it used to be,” he said. 

Buttigieg has dismissed speculation that black voters may not support him because he’s gay, noting he was elected mayor of South Bend despite the prevalence of “socially conservative Democrats.” 

“It is remarkable how Americans are capable of moving past old habit, moving past old prejudices, making history, and getting the president that will serve them best regardless of the other noise that’s circling around the race,” he said this month.