The Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday morning said he cooperated with federal officials in wiretapping interactions with Mafia contacts in the 1980s and would do it all again if his life was threatened.
He said he has made mistakes in his decades as an activist but has always made the right choice when it came to hard decisions.
"I'm not a mobster; I'm a preacher," he said at a news conference at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.
Sharpton, preparing for a National Action Network convention to feature Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Barack Obama that kicks off Wednesday, said he was not a "rat."
"I'm a cat. I chase rats," he said.
But the civil rights leader said he couldn't detail the conversations, what equipment was used and under what circumstances.
He said he did not know whether the conversations he helped to record with Joseph "Joe Bana" Buonanno -- whom he said Tuesday that he initiated talks with, in conjunction with the FBI -- ultimately helped to take down Genovese crime family members like Vincent "Chin" Gigante, also known as "the Oddfather."
"We had conversations for the purposes of trying to solicit these guys to repeat the threats," Sharpton said. "The conversations were recorded, and I would record them today if somebody threatened me."
He said he never considered himself an "informant," but rather said he believed he was cooperating in fighting crime.
In a two-hour 1988 interview with Newsday, Sharpton said he carried concealed microphones in briefcases and accompanied undercover federal agents wearing body recorders to meetings with various subjects of federal investigations. The reverend said Tuesday that that particular case may be been related to Don King, not the Mafia.
He said he does not know whether he was "CI-7," or confidential informant No. 7, and did not address allegations that he was cooperating with the FBI after getting ensnared in a drug sting, as a report by The Smoking Gun website alleged. He said his life was threatened, and he still gets threats.
"I don't know if I was C-7 or B-19 . . . I know that I was threatened," he said.
Sharpton said he encourages young people to also work with authorities to curb crime.