LOS ANGELES – The unexpected split between the National Action Network and its local political director, Najee Ali, continued to raise eyebrows this week as both sides presented sharply different stories about what ignited the break-up.
Ali fired the first salvo last week when he said in public statements that he resigned from his role at Al Sharpton’s West Coast office after an ideological “difference of opinion” over whether NAN should accept money from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.
In an open letter to NAN founder Sharpton and its West Coast director Rev. K.W. Tulloss, Ali accused the NAN execs of effectively selling out the black community to get a few dollars from the tobacco company.
“I can’t stand with you or Rev. Tulloss with your support for R.J. Reynolds,” Ali said. “The fact is R.J. Reynolds is a major financial supporter of NAN. I knew in my heart being a cancer survivor I couldn’t support R.J. Reynolds and their plan to hire and enlist NAN activists nationally to fight [a] ban on menthol cigarettes.”
Tulloss said, however, that Ali and the organization parted ways after allegations surfaced that Ali physically abused his wife, Felecia Banks Ali – an allegation Najee Ali has vehemently denied.
“As a husband, father and friend, I just couldn’t ignore the calls and messages regarding Najee’s [alleged] actions,” Tulloss said. “I also couldn’t allow myself or National Action Network to be associated with those very serious allegations.”
“In the past, Najee has worked with our organization as we addressed social justice issues in the community and we will always be thankful for his service,” Tulloss said. “However, due to the serious allegations that came to our attention we decided it would be best to part ways.
“I don’t want to hurt Najee. I still care [about] and love him, but he needs help,” added Tulloss, also senior pastor of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church. “I’m excited he’s seeking counseling. I pray for the best. I will have no further comment on this issue.”
Ali, however, said Tulloss and NAN are involved in a “smear campaign” designed to discredit him, misrepresent the truth and hide the fact that NAN is accepting money from RJR.
“Anyone reading what Tulloss said … that I beat my wife, knows he’s lying,” Ali said. “Tulloss is on a smear campaign because I know the truth about the money Sharpton, NAN and he have received from R.J. Reynolds and their plans to join them in their attempt to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.”
“So Tulloss must try to discredit and silence me, which will never happen,” he added. “The fact he would lie on my wife and use her is disgraceful.”
Ali said the stress of being a community activist put a strain on his marriage, causing the couple to have heated disagreements. He also acknowledged that his wife reached out to Tulloss for ministerial counseling, but said she never told Tulloss that she was being abused.
Felecia Banks Ali could not be reached for comment, but Najee Ali forwarded a written statement from his wife stating that there is no domestic violence in his marriage.
“The community should not be concerned about what’s going on inside my household. My wife has stated there is no issue of domestic violence in our household,” said Ali. “On the advice of legal counsel, there is nothing else to say on this matter as we look to file a slander and libel lawsuit against Tulloss and NAN.”
Neither Sharpton nor NAN’s corporate office in New York could be reached for comment.