On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report, during a discussion of events surrounding the so-called Jena Six, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke asserted: "[I]t looks as though the people of Jena can solve this on their own." Kondracke made this comment after claiming that the charges against black high school student Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, "were reduced" and that "a lot of the injustice has been corrected." In fact, it was a state appeals court sitting well outside Jena that overturned the conviction, ruling that Bell had been improperly charged as an adult, although Bell remains in custody. Though he did mention the "injustice" of Bell's having been charged as an adult, Kondracke did not mention the appellate court's decision to throw out the conviction.
During an "All-Star" panel discussion of reported comments by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was "acting like he's white" in his response to the Jena Six case, Kondracke said, "Look ... there were injustices here. This one young man was charged with attempted murder ... as an adult, although he was 16." Asked by Fox News chief Washington correspondent and guest host Jim Angle if he thought the Jena Six "were charged with too serious a crime," Kondracke replied, "Yeah," then noted that "the charges were reduced." Continuing, he said: "I think that a lot of the injustice has been corrected. The tree about which this all began, and where nooses were hung, clearly in a racially provocative way, was cut down by authorities. ... [I]t looks as though the people of Jena can solve this on their own, but can Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson leave well enough alone? Oh, no."
As Media Matters for America has noted, the Jena Six, a group of six black high school students in Jena, Louisiana, were arrested in December 2006 and charged with the attempted murder of a white student following a schoolyard fight. The fight followed weeks of racially charged incidents -- including the hanging of nooses in a tree at the school, fights, protests, and arson. The local district attorney later reduced the attempted murder charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. The charges provoked allegations of vastly disparate treatment of the black and white students involved in the various incidents and sparked ongoing civil rights protests. Bell, the only student to have been tried, was found guilty of aggravated second-degree battery by an all-white jury. The trial judge then threw out the conspiracy conviction, but, while ruling that Bell should have been tried as a juvenile, upheld the battery conviction. On September 14, the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal -- which sits in Lake Charles, Louisiana, more than 100 miles from Jena -- overturned the conviction, ruling that Bell "was not tried on an offense [aggravated second-degree battery] which could have subjected him to the jurisdiction of the criminal court."
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: I'll get to you guys. Let's see what -- Obama, late in the day, issued a statement you will find amusing, in which he says: "My statements on Jena 6 were carefully thought out with input and support from one of my national campaign chairman, U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr."
KONDRACKE: Take that -- take that, pop. I mean, look, there -- one, Jesse Jackson Sr. now cannot remember whether he said or didn't say that Barack Obama was acting like he was white. There was no tape recording of this --
ANGLE: He didn't deny it, he just said, "I don't recall."
KONDRACKE: Yeah, exactly.
Look, what -- there were injustices here. This one young man was charged with attempted murder and -- as an adult, although he was 16.
ANGLE: Do you think they were charged with too serious a crime.
KONDRACKE: Yeah, and the charges were reduced. I think that a lot of the injustice has been corrected. The tree about which this all began, and where nooses were hung, clearly in a racially provocative way, was cut down by authorities.
I mean, this -- it looks as though the people of Jena can solve this on their own, but can Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson leave well enough alone? Oh, no.