These days, Attorney General Eric Holder can't seem to scratch his nose without eliciting complaints and criticisms from media critics on the right. As the Public Employee Enemy #1 of anti-Obama conservatives, he's faced false allegations of racism, cover-ups and partisanship. Their latest charge? That he's recreating the historic subprime mortgage crisis that began the nation's economic collapse.
Last weekend, Paul Sperry at Investor's Business Daily (IBD) wrote a lengthy, context-free article condemning the Justice Department's investigations of banks whose lending policies discriminate against minorities. According to the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, the department received more referrals from regulatory agencies "of matters involving a possible pattern or practice of discrimination" in 2010 than it's received in at least twenty years. The DOJ investigations into the potential violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act by several banks have led to a number of settlements.
Sperry's IBD article is written in a way that inaccurately suggests the terms of the DOJ/bank settlements are both inherently dangerous (because they will lead to another housing crisis) and unfair (because banks are being strong-armed by the power of the federal government and the threat of being labeled racist into offering risky lines of credit). Along the way, the reporter ignores the facts and the law. Most striking is the article's tacit implication that being forced to serve minorities is inherently equivalent to being forced to engage in unwise lending practices.
The first misleading premise pushed by Sperry is that the Justice Department has asked banks to "relax their mortgage underwriting standards" and that this type of "government-imposed lax underwriting" was the cause of the housing boom and subsequently meltdown. From IBD:
In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD. [...]
Such efforts risk recreating the government-imposed lax underwriting that led to the housing boom and bust, critics fear.
First, DOJ settlements explicitly state that banks are not obligated to lend to unqualified individuals, only that they must begin providing services to minority communities they've allegedly ignored. As their agreement with Midwest BankCentre states, banks are not required to "make any unsafe or unsound loan" and must offer services only to potential customers "whose credit history does not present an unacceptably high risk to the Bank or indicate a history of fraudulent transactions."
Second, regardless of the agreements between DOJ and the banks, Sperry's fundamental argument -- that government affordable housing initiatives caused the financial crisis -- follows a years-old conservative myth that is not supported by the facts.
Eric Bolling, host of Fox Business Netork's Follow the Money, invited former congressman and failed Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo onto his show to discuss the ongoing investigation into Fast and Furious, the controversial operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Tancredo, a notoriously intolerant fear-monger, didn't take long to shift the conversation to the topic of race, calling African-American Attorney General Eric Holder "the guy that refuses to prosecute blacks -- black thugs who intimidate people at the polls."
Tancredo's statement is an obvious reference to the long-discredited New Black Panther Party controversy, a voter intimidation case featuring African-American defendants that some conservatives say were let off the hook by the Obama administration. His claim, which echoes a wider conservative narrative that President Obama's administration is racist, is demonstrably false.
In fact, the DOJ obtained a judgment against an African-American defendant in the NBPP case after the Justice Department under President Bush decided not to pursue criminal charges against the NBPP. The Obama DOJ has also requested injunctions against black Democratic Party officials in Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.
TANCREDO: Eric Holder knows. No other agency of this government is so politicized. Remember this is the guy that refuses to prosecute blacks -- black thugs, who intimidate people at the polls.
There's another, even more I think, insidious -- potentially more insidious -- reason for the, for Operation Gunwalker. I think they wanted guns in Mexico so they could eventually say, "look at the flood of guns from the United States into Mexico causing all this violence. Let's do something about guns in the United States." I think that was behind all of this.
In typical Tancredo fashion, he adds fuel to the fire when he followed up his racially-infused comments with the latest conservative conspiracy theory, claiming that the Obama administration is purposefully allowing guns to enter Mexico in an attempt to gain popular support for tighter gun laws in the U.S. Conservative proponents of the far-out notion admit that they "do not have any direct evidence" of its veracity. Far be it for someone like Tancredo to let something as trivial as "proof" stand in the way of a good sound bite.
C-SPAN is a public service created by the American cable television industry: To provide C-SPAN's audience access to the live gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and to other forums where public policy is discussed, debated and decided -- all without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view.
It's surprising, then, that C-SPAN has repeatedly simulcast the show of Iowa radio bigot Jan Mickelson, an apparent birther who is virulently anti-gay. In a speech at a conservative event last month that was broadcast by C-SPAN, Mickelson said that because President Obama "has left out 'equally endowed by our Creator" in his recitation of the Declaration "even after he's been told several times that he's an Arab" for doing so, his actions must be "deliberate" and are therefore "evil."
On Tuesday, C-SPAN dedicated two and a half hours of airtime to giving Mickelson's show, which he describes as "fairly right of center," a national audience.
It's unclear how a hateful voice like Mickelson's fits into the thoughtful, balanced and bipartisan tone that C-SPAN and its corporate funders say they are seeking to undertake. In a statement to Media Matters, C-SPAN declined to comment on Mickelson's rhetoric, but acknowledged that the network has aired Mickelson's show ten times as a part of their efforts in "simulcasting local radio stations... with the intent of giving national audiences a sense of local debate and discussion."
So for C-SPAN, broadcasting Mickelson's record of vitriol is justified since it is just part of the local flavor of Iowa. Below the fold are just a few of the incendiary remarks C-SPAN disregarded when deciding to provide a national platform to Mickelson's "local debate."
In the fifteen days following Megyn Kelly's June 30, 2010, interview hyping the unsubstantiated allegations of right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, six Fox News shows devoted 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime to the phony New Black Panthers scandal. By contrast, those shows have devoted a total of two segments and 88 seconds to the Justice Department's release of the results of an internal investigation clearing DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.
On the night before Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was scheduled to hold hearings on the civil rights of Muslims in America, Fox News aired a segment on Special Report that promoted a right-wing group's attacks on Durbin for his appearance in what they described as "a controversial picture... that critics say undermines the hearing." By contrast, the program did not point out Congressman Peter King's (R-NY) extensive efforts on behalf of the Irish Republican Army before his hearings earlier this month on Muslim radicalization.
Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey has regularly used platforms on the op-ed pages of major newspapers and as a guest on cable and broadcast news programs to serve as an attack dog seeking to undermine President Obama, his administration, and in particular Attorney General Eric Holder on a wide variety of issues. Most recently, Mukasey has slammed the Obama Justice department for bringing a discrimination lawsuit against a school on behalf of a Muslim teacher who resigned after her request for time off to make hajj, a religious pilgrimage observant Muslims must take, was denied.
Bill O'Reilly, Jeanine Pirro, Gretchen Carlson are ridiculing and attacking the Justice Department for suing a school district for discrimination on behalf of a Muslim teacher who resigned after her request for time off to make hajj, a religious pilgrimage observant Muslims must take, was denied. But the Justice Department is acting on the recommendation of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which previously engaged in a similar lawsuit during the Bush administration, and even Fox's Megyn Kelly has acknowledged that the DOJ may have a case.
Chris Wallace pushed the myth that government spending has not helped the economy in order to dismiss a Goldman Sachs report concluding that the House GOP budget plan would be a "drag" on the economy. But economists have said that the economy would be far worse today without the 2009 stimulus.
Andrew Breitbart claims that working for Media Matters for America means that we "by default disagree with everything" he says. This isn't necessarily true, but it's clear to us that no matter where you work, you should take everything Breitbart says with an entire lick of salt; he tweaks, twists and flat-out tramples the truth too often to maintain a semblance of reliability.
In an interview at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), Breitbart told Media Matters for America's Joe Strupp that MSNBC blamed him (Breitbart) for Congress' failure to appropriate settlement funds for black farmers because Breitbart published his phony Shirley Sherrod scandal that same week. He said:
BREITBART: MSNBC twice that week blamed me for the black farmers not getting their settlement because it was supposed to be passed that week. They thought I was setting up a trap...MSNBC blamed me for that.
Breitbart was repeating a claim he published in a BigGovernment.com blog post on December 6, 2010:
Nation editor Chris Hayes was filling in for Rachel Maddow and reported that I was responsible for black farmers not getting their settlement money.
"Conservative con artist, 1; black farmers, 0," liberal Journolist Hayes said snarkily.
Breitbart's characterization is simply false. As the video Breitbart linked to makes clear, Hayes actually said the exact opposite:
HAYES: It doesn't appear that last week's fake [Sherrod] scandal was what caused the Senate to strip restitution for victims of actual, real-life, documented discrimination from the appropriations bill.
Breitbart's truth-twisting was accentuated by a repeated misquote, In his blog post above, he quotes Hayes saying "Conservative con artist, 1; black farmers, 0."
In fact, Hayes said in that segment: "It's just that as the dust clears from last week's collective frenzy, take a look at the score: conservative con artists, 1, victims of real-world racial discrimination, 0."
He repeats the imprecision later in his interview with Media Matters (and removes the "con artist" language while he's at it), saying: "MSNBC thought it was a compelling argument last week when they accused me in a segment that said 'conservative activist, 1; black farmers, 0.'"
But Hayes wasn't, as Breitbart alleges, claiming that Breitbart had defeated the black farmers and kept them from receiving Pigford funds. He was comparing two different stories -- the failure to pass Pigford funds and Breitbart's invitation to appear at a Republican National Committee event -- to point out that despite Breitbart's Sherrod smear, he was still being rewarded at the same time victims of discrimination were being punished.
The fact that Breitbart misquotes Hayes about whether he used the phrase "black farmers" or "victims of real-world racial discrimination" isn't a big deal in itself, but it's part of a larger pattern of lazy mistakes and general disregard for accuracy.
This disregard for the truth (and an accompanying persecution complex) couldn't be more apparent in his complete mischaracterization of MSNBC's reporting. When these little mistakes pepper so much of Breitbart's work, it makes you wonder what other corners he's cut.
Conservative wannabe-whistleblower J. Christian Adams is banging the (same) drum again, repeating claims that his former employers, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama's Department of Justice, are unwilling to protect the rights of white voters. Republicans sent him invitations to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he's scheduled to speak at CPAC, and now The Washington Times has provided him another opportunity to advance his fabrications, and therefore presumably his stature as a conservative icon, in his latest diatribe intended to promote the New Black Panther Party phony story.
The content of the latest Adams column is nothing new. He begins by claiming that scurrilous DOJ enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are sufficient to make the Act unconstitutional under a theory of unequal enforcement on the basis of race... if only the U.S. Supreme Court were made aware of what's going on at DOJ (guess where Adams comes in?).
Adams repeats the bogus claim that the Obama administration's actions in Noxubee County, MS, show that the DOJ engages in a racial double standard with regard to enforcing election laws. He opines in The Washington Times:
Eric H. Holder Jr.'s Justice Department has become notorious for enforcing election laws with a racial double standard. From the corrupt dismissal of the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case to the refusal to enforce voter integrity laws, Mr. Holder's tenure has been politicized and race-based.
The Supreme Court may be surprised to learn that the Justice Department refuses to conduct any analysis under Section 5 when the racial minority is white, as is the case in many towns and counties covered by Section 5.
This failure to enforce the law equally is not simply a theoretical problem. There are real victims.
During the George W. Bush years, the department brought and won a discrimination case in rural Noxubee County, Miss., against a black official who used fraud and lawlessness to discriminate against the white minority. Yet when a submission under Section 5 was made by this same wrongdoer to facilitate continued discrimination in 2010, the Holder Justice Department didn't even review the discriminatory proposal under Section 5.
Why not? Because Mr. Holder's Justice Department believes as a matter of policy that its resources should not be used to enforce Section 5 on behalf of white victims.
However, as we've noted, this is entirely inaccurate. What the DOJ actually did when the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee submitted their request was state that only the "Referee-Administrator" assigned during the Bush years had standing to make a determination. The Justice Department then asked the court to prohibit those plans from moving forward. DOJ stated that by submitting the request in the first place, the defendants were in violation of the Bush-era injunction, concluding:
The Defendants have violated the Remedial Order in this case in two ways. First, the Defendants have assumed electoral duties that this Court has exclusively reserved for the Referee-Administrator. Second, the evidence surrounding the Defendants' decision to implement this new party loyalty standard indicates that, like the party loyalty standard previously implemented by Defendants in Noxubee County, its genesis is one that is, at least in part, racially motivated.
DOJ also sought to extend the injunction against the NCDEC and their leader, Ike Brown, specifically citing potential harm to white voters. The DOJ filing read:
The current effort by the Defendants is a part of the same pattern of behavior described by the Court in its liability opinion, in which Mr. Brown was seen to combine partisan motives with underlying racial motives. In the liability opinion, the Court noted that the list of 174 voters Mr. Brown threatened to challenge on party loyalty grounds included only white voters, despite the presence of black voters who met the terms of his party loyalty standard. Brown, 494 F. Supp. 2d at 476. These facts established that Mr. Brown's actions were motivated in part by racial concerns.
The United States therefore respectfully requests that the Court enjoin the Defendants from making any attempt to enforce the provisions of their "Motion to close Democratic Primary."
There's no doubt that, as a career attorney and a conservative, the strength of Adams' personal brand depends upon the credibility of his Holder/DOJ attacks. Unfortunately for him, the DOJ's actions in the Noxubee case are in fact a "smoking gun" of proof that the administration is keeping a just and vigilant eye on the concerns of all U.S. voters, regardless of race.