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Al Sharpton and Comcast Come Out on Top in $20 Billion Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Judge dismisses case that claimed companies worked with civil rights group to polish their diversity profile while excluding black-owned networks

It’s official: Al Sharpton is not a racist. At least in the case of a $20 billion lawsuit against Sharpton and Comcast, which was dismissed by a federal judge on Wednesday.

The lawsuit, which named Comcast and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, along with Time Warner Cable and the NAACP, was filed in May by the National Association of African-American Owned Media and Entertainment Studio Networks. The co-plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were blocking equal access for black-owned networks.

The lawsuit claimed that the groups collaborated to make Comcast/NBCUniversal appear to fight for diversity, but instead kept 100-percent black-owned networks out of the mix. One of the payoffs, the plaintiffs allege, was the MSNBC show Sharpton hosts, which they say MSNBC owner Comcast gave to Sharpton in exchange for his signature on diversity agreements.

“Comcast spent millions of dollars to pay non-media civil rights groups to support its acquisition of NBC-Universal, while at the same time refusing to do business with 100 percent African-American owned media companies,” the suit read. “These payments were a ruse made with an ulterior motive: To make Comcast look like a good corporate citizen while it steadfastly refused to contract with 100 percent African American-owned channels.”

But in Wednesday’s ruling, Judge Terry J. Hatter found that the plaintiffs weren’t able to make their case.

“[A] complaint must contain sufficient facts to state a ‘plausible’ claim for relief,” Hatter wrote. “A claim is facially plausible when the facts to support it allow the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. This requires more than a possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant’s liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.”

Hatter concluded, “the plaintiffs have failed to allege any plausible claim for relief.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.