Wash. Post ombudsman says his paper should cover the phony New Black Panthers story

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In a column appearing in tomorrow's Washington Post, ombudsman Andrew Alexander writes that his paper should cover the New Black Panther Party story:

The Post should never base coverage decisions on ideology, nor should it feel obligated to order stories simply because of blogosphere chatter from the right or the left.

But in this case, coverage is justified because it's a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide. If Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his department are not colorblind in enforcing civil rights laws, they should be nailed. If the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed. If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed.

As Media Matters' Simon Maloy noted, the manufactured scandal over the Justice Department's actions regarding the New Black Panthers case has followed a familiar pattern in which Fox News picks up a story from the conservative media, then attacks the "mainstream media" for ignoring the distorted story.

The Post's Alexander writes that if "the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed." As Media Matters has noted, while the commission is technically "bipartisan," it's chair acknowledged that conservatives "gam[ed] the system" and packed the panel with conservative activists. Further, the commission's two Democrats, as well as one Republican, have criticized the panel's investigation of the DOJ's actions in the New Black Panther Party case. On Friday, Politico reported that Abigail Thernstrom, a "tough conservative" appointed by President Bush to serve as vice chair, criticized fellow conservatives on the commission:

"This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration," said Thernstrom, who said members of the commission voiced their political aims "in the initial discussions" of the Panther case last year.

"My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president," Thernstrom said in an interview with POLITICO.

Alexander also wrote, "If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed." Media Matters has thoroughly documented that Adams' accusations simply don't stand up to facts:

  • Adams is a longtime right-wing activist who is known for filing an ethics complaint against Hugh Rodham that was subsequently dismissed. Adams served as a poll watcher for George W. Bush in Florida in 2004, and he reportedly volunteered for a Republican group that trains lawyers to fight "racially tinged battles over voting rights."
  • Adams was hired at the Justice Department in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, who was found by the Justice Department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility to have improperly considered political affiliation when hiring career attorneys -- the former head of the DOJ voting rights section reportedly said that Adams was "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman."
  • Adams has admitted that he does not have firsthand knowledge of the events, conversations, and decisions that he is citing to advance his accusations.
  • The Bush administration's Justice Department -- not the Obama administration -- made the decision not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation at a polling center in Philadelphia in 2008.
  • The Obama administration successfully obtained default judgment against King Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party who was carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center.
  • The Bush administration DOJ chose not to pursue similar charges against members of the Minutemen, one of whom allegedly carried a weapon while harassing Hispanic voters in Arizona in 2006.
  • No voters have come forward to claim that they were intimidated and did not vote because of the New Black Panthers' presence outside the polling center.
  • The Republican vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is currently investigating the Justice Department's decision, has said that the case is "very small potatoes" and that it has been surrounded by "overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges." She has further stated that the investigation has not "served the interests of the Commission" and that the DOJ has given a "plausible argument" for not pursuing additional charges in the case.
The Washington Post
Andrew Alexander
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