Fox News' increasingly dishonest promotion of Adams' accusations

Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

In aggressively promoting GOP activist J. Christian Adams' unsubstantiated allegations that the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder engaged in racially motivated corruption by not pursuing additional voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, Fox News has routinely omitted key facts that completely undermine Adams' claims. Now Fox News is misidentifying a McCain campaign volunteer in order to lend Adams credibility.

Adams is scheduled to testify before the Civil Rights Commission tomorrow. In advance of his testimony, Fox News has hyped Adams' assertion that the Obama administration has a "hostility in the voting section and in the civil rights division to bringing cases on behalf of white victims for the benefit of national racial minorities." Despite the fact that Adams himself acknowledged during his Fox interview that his claims are based on hearsay, Fox continues to treat them as credible. Increasingly, Fox News is misrepresenting the record to advance the story.

Fox, for example, has refused to report that the Bush-era Justice Department chose not to pursue voter intimidation charges against members of the Minutemen in Arizona, one of whom allegedly carried a handgun while harassing Hispanic voters in 2006. This fact effectively destroys the idea that the Obama DOJ engaged in racially charged corruption that is unprecedented. Quite simply, the Obama administration's Justice Department pursued voter intimidation charges against a black individual carrying a weapon outside a polling station -- they obtained default judgment in May against Minister King Samir Shabazz, who was carrying a nightstick outside a Philadelphia polling station -- whereas the Bush administration DOJ did not pursue voter intimidation charges against a member of the Minutemen who allegedly carried a pistol outside a polling station. Fox News simply refuses to disclose this key fact that -- again -- absolutely annihilates Adams' very accusation that the Justice Department is hostile to pursuing voter intimidation charges against black defendants.

But it seems now that withholding facts is insufficient.

Fox News has taken to selectively identifying the people it cites to purportedly corroborate Adams' story. Today, after once again promoting Adams' testimony, Fox News correspondent Eric Shawn turned to Bartle Bull, identified as "a noted New York Democrat" and "poll watcher" who "went to Mississippi in the 1960s." Shawn then aired footage of Bull echoing Adams' attacks against the Obama administration for its handling of the New Black Panther Party case:

BULL: Never have I seen a man standing in a militaristic uniform, holding a weapon -- in this case a large billy club -- blocking the entrance to a polling place. Even in Mississippi where I was in two towns in which they had nooses hanging off trees near the polling place, even there I never saw a weapon in the door of a polling place. This is the worst and this government is supporting it, is defending it.

But Bull is not simply "a noted New York Democrat" and "poll watcher." He is a poll watcher who went to Philadelphia in 2008 "troubleshooting on Election Day for the McCain Campaign." Bull said so himself when testifying before the Civil Rights Commission in April:

BULL: Well, I had been serving in New York State, my second Republican candidate, as Chairman of Democrats for McCain in New York State. I knew we were going to lose New York. I thought perhaps I could help in Philadelphia. So, I took the train down there at 5:00 in the morning, and spent a day there, troubleshooting on Election Day for the McCain Campaign.

This fact is critical to establishing Bull's credibility on the very issue Shawn is citing him to discuss. There is no reason whatsoever to inform viewers that Bull is a Democrat who "went to Mississippi in the 1960s" and served as a "poll watcher" without noting that Bull served as a poll watcher for John McCain, not for Democrats. Actually, there is a reason to withhold that information from viewers -- to further Adams' unsubstantiated accusations and to lend them credibility.

It should be noted that no voter in Philadelphia has come forward to complain about intimidation stemming from the Black Panthers' presence at the polling station. U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Arlan Melendez noted this fact in criticizing the commission's continued investigation into the Justice Department:

MELENDEZ: My remarks are going to be brief because I think far too much of our time has been consumed on this seemingly unnecessary investigation. Citizens should be able to vote without intimidation, and it is our Commission's duty to investigate complaints from citizens that their voting rights have been infringed.

In this case, however, no citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting at the Fairmount Avenue Polling Station in 2008. This absence of voter intimidation was clear to the Justice Department last spring, which is why they took the course of action that they did.

This absence of voter intimidation was clear to the members of this Commission as well, or at least it should've been. Our investigation has been going on now for the better part of a year. We have wasted a good deal of our staff's time, and the taxpayers' money.

UPDATE: This morning, Steve Doocy continued Fox News' pattern of dishonesty in promoting Adams' political activism. Doocy claimed that "the other problem is Eric Holder, the attorney general, still has not explained why they dropped the case." In fact, the Justice Department has "explained why they dropped the case." In May 14 testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, directly addressed the decision not to pursue additional charges in the case:

ASST. ATTY. GEN. PEREZ: We have a continuing duty, whether it's in a default posture, whether it's a pro se defendant, whether it's the biggest white shoe law firm in town representing the defendant, our obligation stays the same, which is that we continue to have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that we can present evidence that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the elements of the particular charge. In this case, the conclusion was made that, as to the defendant who had the nightstick, that there was indeed sufficient evidence to sustain the charge. And so the default judgment was sought and obtained as it related to him.

MR. BLACKWOOD: Okay. If I could --

ASST. ATTY. GEN. PEREZ: And as it related to the other defendants in the case, Ms. King and Mr. Rosenbaum concluded that the evidence did not support that. And that was the decision that they made.

Doocy also wondered how the media would have reacted "had something like this happened during the Bush years." It did happen during the Bush years. Steve Doocy just refuses to acknowledge it.

J. Christian Adams
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