The National Association of African-American Owned Media has filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable, claiming the companies have dealt in "pernicious, intentional racial discrimination" against entirely black-owned media organizations.
Also named in the suit are the Rev. Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and Sharpton's non-profit organization, the National Action Network.
The NAAAOM and Entertainment Studios, a television company founded by comedian/producer Byron Allen listed as a co-plaintiff in the suit, claim that Sharpton and the civil rights organizations agreed to help Comcast and Time Warner mask their diversity woes in exchange for financial contributions. The suit claims that despite hoping to appear diverse, Comcast in actuality refuses to treat black-owned media companies the same as their white-owned counterparts.
"Comcast has, in essence, created a 'Jim Crow' process with respect to licensing channels from 100 percent African American–owned media," the suit reads. "Comcast has reserved a few spaces for 100 percent African American–owned media in the 'back of the bus' while the rest of the bus is occupied by white-owned media companies. This is the epitome of racial discrimination in contracting."
The lawsuit takes special care to single out Sharpton, The Washington Post noted. The NAAAOM and Entertainment Studios accuses the reverend of being paid $3.8 million -- both in donations and salary for hosting MSNBC's "Politics Nation" -- in exchange for supporting Comcast's merger with NBCUniversal in 2010.
"Another blatant example of conflict of interest," the suit reads.
Comcast, Sharpton and the National Action Network all hit back at Allen and the NAAAOM in statements to The Hollywood Reporter.
"We do not generally comment on pending litigation, but this complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations," Comcast said in its statement.
Sharpton called the allegations "frivolous" and told THR he would be filing a counterclaim for defamation. He told Reuters the suit had "not one scintilla of evidence."
"The lawsuit is the epitome of an insult to the black community," Sharpton said.
In a statement to The Huffington Post, the National Action Network further dismissed the lawsuit, calling its credibility into question.
“National Action Network has not been served with any papers and considers this claim frivolous," the statement read. "If in fact we were to be served, we would gladly defend our relationship with any company as well as to state on the record why we found these discriminatory accusations made by said party to be less than credible and beneath the standards that we engage in."
Comcast did not immediately responded to request for comment from The Huffington Post.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified the NAAAOM as a co-founder of Entertainment Studios. The group is associated with the media company in bringing the lawsuit.
This post has been updated to include a statement from the National Action Network.