Megyn Kelly falsely characterized a documentary about the New Black Panther Party as evidence of "the incident" that gave rise to a Justice Department investigation into alleged voter intimidation on Election Day 2008. But according to the general counsel for the Civil Rights Commission, the video was completed before Election Day.
As viewers watch Fox News dishonestly hype GOP activist J. Christian Adams' unsubstantiated accusation that the Justice Department under president Obama engaged in racially charged corruption, they should know that Adams reportedly was hired by Bradley Schlozman, a Bush-era political appointee who was found to have inappropriately considered political affiliation when hiring career attorneys.
A post today on the legal news website Main Justice reported that Joseph Rich, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section, confirmed that Adams was hired by "Bradley Schlozman, who was then a deputy assistant attorney general and later became acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division." Rich reportedly called Adams "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Bradley Schlozman."
A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman "considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys in violation of Department policy and federal law." The report also concluded:
The evidence in our investigation showed that Schlozman, first as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and subsequently as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General, considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division. In doing so, he violated federal law -- the Civil Service Reform Act -- and Department policy that prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political and ideological affiliations, and committed misconduct. The evidence also showed that Division managers failed to exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices. Moreover, Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee.
In a National Review Online article, Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, called the manufactured controversy surrounding the New Black Panthers Party case "small potatoes," and encouraged readers to "forget about the New Black Panther Party case," commenting that "too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case." Thernstrom, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, further wrote:
Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes a perfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provision differently. It happens all the time, especially when administrations change in the middle of litigation.
As Media Matters documented, Thernstrom criticized the commission's investigation into the New Black Panther Party case in April, saying, "I do not think that this inquiry has served the interests of the Commission as being a bipartisan watchdog for important civil rights violations, and I do not believe it has served well the party to which I belong."
The conservative media -- led by Fox News -- continue to dishonestly hype the accusations and pressure other media outlets to cover the ginned up controversy. Thernstrom provides yet another reason to ignore the noise machine.
From Thernstrom's July 6 National Review article:
Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation -- the charge -- are very high.
In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only three Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far -- after months of hearings, testimony and investigation -- no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.
A number of conservatives have charged that the Philadelphia Black Panther decision demonstrates that attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have racial double standards. How many attorneys in what positions? A pervasive culture that affected the handling of this case? No direct quotations or other evidence substantiate the charge.
Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes a perfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provision differently. It happens all the time, especially when administrations change in the middle of litigation. Democrats and Republicans seldom agree on how best to enforce civil-rights statutes; this is not the first instance of a war between Left and Right within the Civil Rights Division.
Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream falsely claimed that the Justice Department withdrew all charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation and deceptively quoted Thomas Perez's, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to support her falsehood. Bream's report -- the second time in a week that Fox News has dishonestly presented Perez's testimony -- fits Fox News' alarming pattern of omitting facts and falsifying the record while promoting J. Christian Adams' political advocacy.
Once again promoting Adams' accusations, Bream claimed:
BREAM: This all stems from that incident in November of 2008 when some members of the Black Panther Party were accused of intimidating voters and poll workers at a Philadelphia polling place. The Department of Justice got involved, there was an investigation that was launched. They did win a default judgment against several of the members when they didn't show up in April 2009 at a court hearing.
Since that time, other attorneys from within the department have said -- you know the Justice Department ultimately dropped the cases, dismissed the charges against those individuals, and some within the department, including Christian Adams, say there are politics at play.
Bream's report is just false. The Justice Department obtained default judgment in May against Minister King Samir Shabazz, who was carrying a nightstick outside a Philadelphia polling station. The fact that the DOJ successfully pursued default judgment against Shabazz for his role in the incident effectively ends the discussion as to whether the Obama administration is hostile to prosecuting black defendants, as Adams has claimed.
But Bream's deception was not limited to omission. More after the Jump.
As Fox News continues to dishonestly hype GOP activist J. Christian Adams' hearsay-laden accusation that President Obama's Justice Department is guilty of racially charged corruption, information continues to emerge that submarines his credibility to discuss why the Justice Department chose to obtain judgment against a member of the New Black Panther Party for carrying a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling station in 2008, while not pursuing charges against additional members of the party not accused of carrying weapons. According to Abigail Thernstrom, Republican vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Adams "doesn't know why the decision was made."
From the July 5 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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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 continues to omit evidence while advancing GOP activist J. Christian Adams' accusations that the Justice Department engaged in unprecedented and racially charged corruption by not pursuing additional charges of voter intimidation against members of the New Black Panther Party. In fact, no voters have said they were intimidated, and the Bush-era DOJ chose not to pursue charges in a similar case.
Volumes have been dedicated to meticulously laying out the way Bush administration officials selectively leaked intelligence that advanced their political agenda to the press, only to then cite the ensuing press reports to validate their specious claims and spread them through conservative media channels. Perhaps no day illustrates this strategy as well as September 8, 2002.
That morning, The New York Times published an article headlined, "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts," where reporters Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon relied on leaked classified intelligence to report that "Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb." That very day then-Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press to tout the article.
Within weeks, The Weekly Standard was out promoting the Times article, and the administration's promotion of it, as evidence of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
This incident and the eight years of media navel-gazing that ensued seems relevant today, as J. Christian Adams, a GOP activist and former Justice Department attorney reportedly hired while the Bush administration was politicizing hiring at DOJ has begun levying attacks on the Justice Department's handling of the New Black Panthers Party case.
Right-wing media are hyping the dubious allegations of former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams, a GOP activist reportedly hired to the DOJ by Bush political appointee Bradley Schlozman, who was found to have inappropriately considered political affiliation and ideology when hiring career attorneys.
Mediaite's Steve Krakauer has a post up asking: "Will DOJ Black Panther Case Whistleblower Story Break Mainstream?" He's referring to the allegation, popular among talk radio hosts and right-wing bloggers, that the Obama Justice Department dropped voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party because the black president and the black attorney general are unfairly biased towards black people. Fox News' Megyn Kelly has made the story her own this week, conducting an "exclusive interview" with former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams, who claims that politics motivated the DOJ to drop the charges.
There are many reasons not to trust Adams on this one. He's a longtime GOP activist who was hired to the Bush-era DOJ by Bradley Schlozman, a political appointee who was ultimately found to have improperly politicized DOJ hiring. Also, Adams' interview with Kelly consisted mainly of unsubstantiated hearsay and conjecture. What's more, the Bush-era DOJ that Adams worked for declined to pursue charges against the Minutemen in a 2006 voter intimidation case based on nearly identical circumstances.
But Krakauer wants this story to be covered more widely: "So far, the story has not been discussed on FNC's cable news competitors or any of the broadcast networks. When we return from the July 4 holiday weekend, that very likely will change - and it should." Why does he think it should be covered? Because Fox News is making a big deal of it.
We're seeing the reemergence of a very familiar pattern.
Megyn Kelly and GOP activist J. Christian Adams deceptively cited Justice Department official Thomas Perez's testimony to accuse the DOJ of racially motivated corruption in its handling of a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. In testimony Kelly avoided mentioning, Perez made clear that the DOJ did, in fact, obtain a judgment against one defendant and also explained that the Bush-era DOJ chose not to pursue a similar case.
GOP activist and former Department of Justice lawyer J. Christian Adams has recently leveled unsubstantiated allegations that the Obama Department of Justice improperly decided not to pursue additional charges of voter intimidation against the New Black Panther Party for an incident that occurred outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
A December 23, 2009, Main Justice article titled "The New Black Panther Case: A Legacy of Politicized Hiring" sheds further light on the political climate surrounding the DOJ at the time Adams was there.
The Main Justice article reported on Adams' ties to Bradley Scholzman:
Adams is a career Voting Section lawyer. He is also a foot soldier in the conservative movement, hired into the Justice Department during the Bush administration under a process the department's Inspector General concluded was improperly politicized.
Adams's background helps explain how a relatively minor incident in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential election involving two members of an anti-white fringe group blossomed into a political controversy for the Obama administration.
Hired in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, a Bush-era political appointee who drove out veteran Civil Rights Division attorneys perceived to be liberal, Adams appears to be one of the "right-thinking Americans" with conservative affiliations that Schlozman improperly seeded throughout the bureaucracy.
Main Justice further reported Bush-era DOJ official Hans von Spakovsky's full-throated defense of Adams and his attacks against "political hacks" in the Justice Department:
Spakovsky worked closely with Schlozman. He helped oversee the Noxubee case in Mississippi and assisted in the controversial purge of veteran lawyers in the division perceived to be liberal. The Democratic-controlled Senate in 2007 refused to confirm Spakovsky as a Federal Election Commission member.
Spakovsky has also worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for commissioner Todd Gaziano, an official at the conservative Heritage Foundation who's been the driving force behind the push to investigate the Black Panthers matter.
Von Spakovsky told Main Justice said he hadn't spoken with Adams about the case. "I know Christian just like I know all the lawyers, but I have not talked to him about the case," he said.
Rush Limbaugh decided to wade into the unsubstantiated allegations made by GOP activist and former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams that the Obama Department of Justice improperly decided not to pursue additional charges of voter intimidation against the New Black Panther Party because a mandate has been issued against pursuing such cases against black defendants. Self-described "colorblind" Limbaugh's contribution to the matter was to state that this is "the natural course of events" with "a black attorney general" and "a black president."
But Limbaugh's race-baiting on the issue wasn't finished there. He contrasted the supposed dismissal of the New Black Panther case -- even though Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Thomas Perez, testified that the "maximum penalty" was actually obtained against one of the defendants -- with the hypothetical failure to prosecute similar cases against white defendants under the Bush administration:
[W]e know that if this guy had quit the Bush Department of Justice because the Attorney General there had said, "No, we're not going to prosecute cases against white people accused of voter discrimination" -- do you know that -- you can well imagine that we'd be hearing nothing about that. Whoever the Attorney General was would be hounded and fired. The media person would be in line for a Pulitzer. The whistle blower would be all over television, would be an American hero.
The problem? Limbaugh's hypothetical situation isn't quite so hypothetical. In 2006, during Adams' time in the Justice Department, the Bush DOJ decided not to pursue charges in a nearly identical situation against white members of the Minutemen who were allegedly intimidating Hispanic voters in Arizona.
And this information is not exactly buried. Perez referred to it in the testimony he gave before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in which he discussed the decision not to seek additional charges in the New Black Panther Party case:
In another case, in Arizona, the complaint was received by a national civil rights organization regarding events in Pima, Arizona in the 2006 election when three well-known anti-immigrant advocates affiliated with the Minutemen, one of whom was carrying a gun, allegedly intimidated Latino voters at a polling place by approaching several persons, filming them, and advocating and printing voting materials in Spanish.
In that instance, the Department declined to bring any action for alleged voter intimidation, notwithstanding the requests of the complaining parties.
Neither Limbaugh nor Adams -- who was reportedly hired by a Bush appointee who politicized the Justice Department -- accounted for this discrepancy while flinging accusations about racial motivations in dropping the charges against some of the New Black Panther defendants.
Fox News identified GOP activist J. Christian Adams as a "DOJ atty" and "whistle-blower" while allowing him to advance his unsubstantiated allegations against the Obama administration. As Media Matters has noted, Adams is a long-time conservative activisit who was reportedly hired by a Bush appointee who politiced the Justice Department. Adams also reportedly volunteered with a Republican group -- the National Republican Lawyers Association -- that "trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights." In 2003, Adams likened Obama to appeasers who caused "carnage" of WWII.
From the July 1 edition of Fox News' America Live: