July 10, 2002 12:00 PM

Michael Jackson is continuing his war of words against his record label, Sony Music Inc., and its CEO, Tommy Mottola. The fireworks started in public last weekend with a rally in New York, at which the pop star, 43, labeled Mottola “a racist” and accused the music industry of long exploiting African-American artists. Sony, in a statement, labeled Jackson’s outcry “ludicrous, spiteful and hurtful.” On Tuesday, reports both New York’s Daily News and the Post, Jackson spoke in Harlem at a gathering organized by political activist the Rev. Al Sharpton. “The minute I surpassed Elvis and the Beatles,” Jackson said at the event, dubbed National Action Network’s Summit for Fairness in the Recording Industry, “they called me a freak, a homosexual, a child molester. They said I bleached my skin. Everything to turn the public against me. It was a complete conspiracy. . . . I know my race. I just look in the mirror. I know I’m black.” The Post quoted Sharpton, who is attempting to meet with high-level music-industry executives to discuss compensating minority artists, as saying of Jackson: “Michael is no wacko. He’s still an icon.” To The New York Times, Sharpton said he was first contacted by Jackson in May to discuss how black artists are treated. (The Times also reported that many in the music business are viewing Jackson’s attacks as his way of renegotiating his contract with Sony.) “Michael told me he was involved in a negotiation at that point,” Sharpton told The Times. “But I did not know if it had turned hostile or not.”

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