Wash. Times tries in vain to link Obama to New Black Panthers

››› ››› ADAM SHAH

The Washington Times attacked the Obama White House in an editorial for supposedly interfering in a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. But the Times editorial relied on falsehoods and distortions, such as the false suggestion that the Justice Department completely dropped the voter intimidation case.

Wash. Times falsely suggested Obama administration completely dropped the case

Wash. Times editorial: Justice Department "drop[ped] voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party." In the first sentence of its January 19 editorial, The Washington Times asserted: "The Justice Department insists that only 'career employees' made a controversial decision last May to drop voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party."

Justice Department did not "drop" the case; it won an injunction against one of the individuals. Indeed, the Times itself has reported that the Justice Department "obtained an injunction against the defendant who held a nightstick in front of a polling place during voting hours."

Bush administration chose to file civil complaint, not criminal "charges" in the case. The January 19 Times editorial itself acknowledged that the Bush administration chose not to file criminal charges in the case, opting instead to file a civil lawsuit: "Career lawyers at the Justice Department decided as early as Dec. 22, 2008, to seek a complaint against the two Black Panthers onsite as well as Black Panther National Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz and the New Black Panther Party as a whole. Mr. Shabazz and the party were charged with having 'managed, directed and endorsed the behavior, actions and statements' of the other two. The Justice Department formally filed the civil action on Jan. 7, 2009, with approval at the highest levels of the department."

Wash. Times falsely claimed Obama website "proudly featured a Web page highlighting the New Black Panther Party endorsement"

Wash. Times: "[T]he official Obama campaign Web site proudly featured a Web page highlighting the New Black Panther Party endorsement." The Washington Times editorial stated: "The New Black Panther Party has been identified as a 'hate group' even by left-wing organizations and also has been denounced by the remnants of the original Black Panther Party. Yet at one point in 2008, the official Obama campaign Web site proudly featured a Web page highlighting the New Black Panther Party endorsement."

In fact, Wash. Times itself reported that New Black Panther blog post was user-generated and was subsequently removed by Obama campaign. From a March 20, 2008, Washington Times article:

The New Black Panther Party, a "black power" group that calls on blacks to arm themselves and frequently espouses anti-white and anti-Semitic rhetoric, posted an endorsement on the Web site that said: "Obama will stir the 'Melting Pot' into a better 'Molten America.' "

The campaign yesterdaytook down the Black Panthers' page on the Web site.

"We removed the user-generated blog post because we don't condone any group that advocates violence," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporter S.A. Miller of The Washington Times. "Senator Obama gave a 37-minute speech about race [Tuesday], and we hope people will focus on that and not what one individual posted on a blog."

He said the Web site, my. barackobama.com, allows supporters to set up their own blog pages and the site now includes more than 1 million pages.

Wash. Times attacked DOJ attorney Rosenbaum for pursuing previous case of voter intimidation

Wash. Times: Rosenbaum "energetically carr[ied] a case stemming from a 1990 incident in which the Republican Party of North Carolina mailed misleading postcards to black voters." Discussing the record of Steven H. Rosenbaum, a career Justice Department attorney who helped oversee the department's civil rights division until the Senate could confirm somebody to the position, the Times stated:

Mr. Rosenbaum's previous history on voting rights included energetically carrying a case stemming from a 1990 incident in which the Republican Party of North Carolina mailed misleading postcards to black voters saying they would be ineligible to vote if they had moved recently from one precinct to another. That incident puts him in the odd position of arguing that postcards are "intimidating" but a physical presence at a polling place -- while wearing paramilitary garb -- is not.

In fact, Philly DA reportedly said no voters were intimidated by New Black Panther Party members. According to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, "There were no arrests, the D.A.'s office told me, because of no complaints and no evidence. The nonpartisan Committee of Seventy also received no complaints. The Black Panther presence, Seventy executive director Zack Stalberg told me, 'was off-putting, not quite intimidating.' "

By contrast, postcards mailed on Helms' behalf reportedly had the effect of intimidating voters. In a blog post, J. Gerald Hebert, who served for more than 20 years in the Justice Department civil rights division, wrote: "[T]he facts that formed the basis for DOJ to file suit showed that the postcard clearly had an intimidating and threatening impact on black voters. Some voters who received the post card expressed concern that they would face arrest or other problems if they went to the polls to vote." In 2008 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Hebert said:

In 1990, the North Carolina Republican Party and the Jesse Helms for Senate campaign engaged in vote caging by sending 44,000 postcards to black voters, giving them incorrect information about voting and threatening them with criminal prosecution. The plan was designed to intimidate and threaten black voters, and the postcards that came back as undeliverable could easily have been used to compile a caging list. Fortunately, the scheme was uncovered just prior to the election as DOJ took swift action, sending the FBI out immediately to investigate. Even though the perpetrators of this vote suppression scheme were exposed before the election, DOJ went ahead with a post election prosecution. The Bush I Justice Department, where I served at the time as a federal prosecutor of voting discrimination cases, filed a federal lawsuit against the GOP and Helms' campaign and obtained declaratory and injunctive relief in the form of a consent judgment and decree.

Wash. Times distorted record on Rosenbaum's, Obama's work on ACORN case

Wash. Times: "[F]ederal appeals court ruled strongly against the Obama-Rosenbaum position" in case involving ACORN. The Times editorial stated: "Mr. Rosenbaum has a history of working with President Obama. In 1995, he helped lead the Justice Department in intervening on behalf of the now-controversial ACORN community-agitating group in a voting-rights case in Illinois. One of ACORN's lead attorneys in that case was Mr. Obama. A federal appeals court ruled strongly against the Obama-Rosenbaum position, calling it 'untenable.' "

In fact, DOJ, ACORN won injunction against state of Illinois in case. The Times editorial mangled the facts of the case, in which ACORN and the Justice Department twice won decisions before the appellate court. As an attorney in private practice, Obama represented ACORN in a 1995 lawsuit against the state of Illinois in which ACORN sought to force the state to implement the National Voter Law of 1993, the federal "motor voter" registration law. The June 5, 1995, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in the case, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), et al., v. [then-Illinois Gov.] James R. Edgar, declared that the motor voter law was constitutional and affirmed the lower court's finding for the plaintiff-appellees including ACORN, the United States of America, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. In subsequent proceedings, the state of Illinois attempted to bring appeal orders by the district judge addressing the state's compliance with the motor voter law. ACORN, the Justice Department and other plaintiffs asked the appeals court to dismiss the appeal. In its decision (retrieved from the Lexis database), the appeals court did state that one argument made by the Justice Department was "untenable," but it ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs that the district court's actions were not appealable and dismissed the state's appeal.

Wash. Times baselessly suggested DOJ official's meeting with White House officials was about New Black Panthers

Wash. Times baselessly claimed that fact that No. 3 DOJ official met with White House officials a number of times is evidence of White House involvement in case. The Times stated that "a new analysis shows that the top Justice political appointee positively identified as having approved the controversial decisions, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, had a strange habit of consulting key White House lawyers in person at exactly the times the key Black Panther decisions were being made -- but very rarely visiting the White House when Black Panther matters were not pressing." The accompanying timeline stated that Perrelli has "10 White House conclaves in two months" before the cases were resolved.

Times cited no evidence that these meetings showed involvement of White House in case. The editorial and accompanying timeline did not contain any reporting that Perrelli discussed the case with White House personnel in the meetings he had at the White House. Indeed, the Times acknowledged that one-third of the meetings Perrelli had at the White House occurred after the case was resolved, writing: "After that flurry of meetings -- 10 White House conclaves in two months -- and with the cases now killed, Mr. Perrelli stops meeting at the White House so frequently. In the next two months, he visits only five times, two of those not with a lawyer but with Mr. Craig's executive assistant, Catherine Whitney." Nevertheless, despite acknowledging that Perrelli met with White House personnel five times after the case was resolved, the Times asserted that "almost all of Mr. Perrelli's key White House meetings coincide almost perfectly with key decisions and developments in the New Black Panther Party case."

Posted In
Government, Justice & Civil Liberties
The Washington Times
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