The civil-rights leader says the Hilton case displays "economic and racial favoritism"

By Tim Nudd
Updated June 07, 2007 01:55 PM

The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a rebuke to the California justice system for allowing Paris Hilton to leave jail and serve her sentence at home, saying the move reveals a dangerous double standard.

“This early release gives all the appearances of economic and racial favoritism that is constantly cited by poor people and people of color,” the civil-rights leader and president of National Action Network said Thursday, according to the Drudge Report. “There are any number of cases of people who handle being incarcerated badly and even have health conditions that are not released.”

Sharpton said he has “nothing but empathy for Ms. Hilton,” pointing out that he appeared with her on Saturday Night Live in 2003. But he said the decision to transfer her from a Los Angeles County prison to her own home, where she will be under house arrest, is unconscionable.

“I have served several sentences for civil rights and civil disobedience actions and I even fasted, which caused health concerns to prison authorities who paid for a doctor to come see me daily rather than release me,” Sharpton said. “This act smacks of the double standards that many of us raise.”

Sharpton was not alone in condemning Hilton’s transfer, as many pundits took to the cable-news shows Thursday afternoon to voice their outrage over the decision.

Even the women of The View weighed in on the move Thursday morning. While Elisabeth Hasselbeck said she found it “disgusting,” Barbara Walters said, “I’m happy for Paris and I’m happy for her family” and guest host Lorraine Bracco admitted, “I’m so conflicted.”

The studio audience, however, was unanimous. When Walters said, “I ask you very quickly, raise hands or shout out: Are you glad that Paris Hilton is reassigned to her home?” the crowd shouted in unison, “No!” Asked Walters, “Do you think it was the right thing to do?” Again: “No!” (See the video below.)

One man who did not seem upset in the least, however, was boxing promoter Don King. According to, King called the Web site’s offices on Thursday morning to say he was “ecstatic” about the news. “I love Paris Hilton, and I’m just delighted, ecstatic that she’s out of jail,” King says in the audio message. King said he has not met Hilton, but he knows her family, and he said the heiress is “what America is all about – people that stand out from the crowd.”

King added that he is looking forward to giving Hilton a hug and “telling her I love her.”