Fox News strains to revive its phony New Black Panthers scandal

Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Fox News is attempting to breathe new life into the phony New Black Panthers scandal it mercilessly and intensely hyped throughout the summer. National correspondent Catherine Herridge reported today on what she herself called "a routine meeting" at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights where "what we anticipated is a status report on their investigation" and "a draft report of somewhere between 25 and 30 pages, with the final report" expected "several months down the road." Given the fact that the Republican vice chairwoman of the commission has said the investigation is nothing more than an effort by conservatives on the commission to "topple" the Obama administration, Fox News' continued coverage should be seen as nothing more than its political activism masquerading as journalism.

Herridge reported live outside the Civil Rights Commission and said the commissioners "opened the meeting with a brief update," and then "began to discuss a letter that was sent by the Justice Department on August 11 to the commission, about whether the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is even handed in its application of the law, in this particular area. And then, the meeting quickly began to spiral out of control." Herridge explained:

Well, there are a number of frustrations. Members of the panel want to speak to personnel within the Justice Department about the investigation, and the handling under Eric Holder, the Attorney General, of the particular case in Philadelphia in November of 2008. They would like to talk to members, what they have told each other at the meeting, also in a number of written communications, is that they are not getting good cooperation and they have issued subpoenas but those subpoenas have not been enforced to date.

Of course, members of the commission have spoken to personnel within the Justice Department about the "handling under Eric Holder" of the New Black Panther Party case.

Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division testified exhaustively about the case in May, explaining, "This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people" over the merits of pursuing additional charges in the case. Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice chairwoman of the commission, has said that Perez's explanation is "perfectly plausible." Thernstrom has also said that the commission's inquiry "doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers," adding that conservatives on the commission wanted to use the case to "topple the administration."

Moreover, Perez directly addressed concerns over whether the DOJ is "even handed in its application of the law, in this particular area" in the August 11 letter Herridge cited. Perez pointed to the department's "ongoing work in Mississippi" where the Justice Department "filed a motion to prevent actions by defendants Ike Brown and the Noxubee County (Mississippi) Democratic Executive Committee on the grounds that the actions were motivated in part by racial animus against white voters." As I noted at the time the DOJ moved against Brown and the Noxubee Democrats, there is no plausible question as to whether the Obama administration is "even handed," having successfully obtained default judgment against Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party who carried a weapon outside a polling station on Election Day 2008, and has requested additional judgment against black leaders in Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.

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