Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, recently revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. Right-wing media responded with virulent anti-immigrant attacks, with Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail writing: "kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out."
One of enduring, albeit unintentional, charms of monitoring the right-wing media, and especially the right-wing media during the Obama years, is that the major players like to think of themselves as hardened truth-tellers who can take a punch. But it turns out they box with a glass jaw and are easily frightened by the most routine political developments.
This week has already produced two examples showcasing how the tough-talking conservative media is actually populated by a pack of Wizard of Oz lions in desperate need of some courage.
The first instance came from the New York Post's hollow claim that Obama aides are out "digging up dirt" on New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie. (The laughable article included zero evidence of any Christie "dirt" being dug up by anyone. Zilch.) And the second was that the White House, with an eye on 2012, had created an online position within its communications team to push back against online falsehoods being spread about Obama.
At the very most, the two articles suggested the Obama team was engaged in conducting opposition research and fact-checking, which is like saying the Obama team was engaged in hiring speech writers and consultants. i.e. Both activities are utterly mundane in today's world of professional politics.
But oh my, cue the far-right freak-out:
More thuggery from our wannabe Dictator-in-Chief.
Progressive Is A Synonym for Dictatorship
Obama's Smear Machine
"Team Obama" preparing "for a little mud slinging"
Obama's "trying to intimidate his way to re-election"
This is typical behavior of partisan bullies. They spend their days and nights launching hateful, phony attacks against the president, but then run scared when their opponent even hints at fighting back.
A couple of months ago, J. Christian Adams put up the following breathless headline on the Pajamas Media blog: "Bombshell: Justice Department Only Selectively Complies with Freedom of Information Act (PJM Exclusive)." In the post, Adams claimed that the Obama Justice Department has "politicized compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. According to documents I have obtained, FOIA requests from liberals or politically connected civil rights groups are often given same day turn-around by the DOJ. But requests from conservatives or Republicans face long delays, if they are fulfilled at all."
If anyone had asked us, we would have warned them not to take the bait without closely double-checking Adams' claims. After all, Adams is a long-time Republican activist who appears to be willing to promote any falsehood in order to attack President Obama's Justice Department. However, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee did fall for Adams' claims, pressing DOJ on whether it has politicized FOIA responses.
As we've noted, Attorney General Eric Holder has already testified that he looked into the issues raised by Adams' blog post and "I can assure you there is no ideological component with regard to how we can respond to FOIA requests." Now, the Justice Department has sent a detailed response to a letter from Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) answering Adams' claims, and the response shows that the "bombshell" Adams touted was actually a total dud.
It turns out that Adams' claims are based on falsehoods and apples-to-oranges comparisons. In fact, the letter shows that Adams even lied about the FOIA request made by his own organization, Pajamas Media, in his original post.
Earlier this month, conservative activist Hans von Spakovsky penned a Pajamas Media post accusing James Graves, an African American Mississippi Supreme Court justice, of engaging in racism in favor of African Americans in his judicial decision-making. As we documented, the charge was highly dubious, especially in light of the strong Republican support Graves received when President Obama nominated him to a federal judgeship.
Senate Republicans and Democrats have now resoundingly rejected von Spakovsky's attack, confirming Graves to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one step below the Supreme Court by a voice vote -- a procedure reserved for non-controversial judicial nominees. On the Senate floor, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) said: "I am proud today to speak on behalf of Justice Graves. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of his nomination to the Fifth Circuit." And Republican Sen. Thad Cochran (MS) said: "It is with pride and pleasure that I am able to recommend to the Senate the confirmation of Justice James E. Graves, Jr."
Now, this isn't the only half-baked racism charge that von Spakovsky has made. He often hypes the trumped-up charges that the Justice Department mishandled a voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party and allegations that the President Obama's Justice Department has a policy of not enforcing voting rights laws in a race-neutral fashion.
Let's hope that congressional Republicans give von Spakovsky's New Black Panther Party allegations the same credence they gave to his charges against Graves.
Hans von Spakovsky is no stranger to race-baiting. He is most often seen these days hyping the trumped-up charges that the Justice Department mishandled a voter intimidation case and alleging that the President Obama's Justice Department has a policy of not enforcing voting rights laws in a race-neutral fashion. Yesterday, he took his attacks a step further, essentially accusing Obama judicial nominee James Graves of engaging in racism in favor of African Americans in his judicial decision-making.
His attack is highly dubious in light of the fact that his target is a Mississippi Supreme Court judge who was elected to his position in 2004 (after initially being appointed to the seat in 2001), has the strong support of both of Mississippi's Republican senators, and who received the support of the Senate Judiciary Committee without dissent after a committee member asked him about the cases in question.
Somehow the conservative media found a way to link a program promoting childhood health to an increase in pedestrian deaths. The magic word? "Obama."
The Drudge Report linked to this Washington Examiner story that gave the impression that there was a link between the "Let's Move!" campaign begun by first lady Michelle Obama and increased pedestrian deaths.
Rush Limbaugh promoted the version of the story appearing on his affiliate in the DC region, WMAL. That story was headlined "Michelle Obama's 'Get Moving' Program Linked to Pedestrian Deaths." Serial misinformer Jim Hoft wrote on his blog Gateway Pundit, "Michelle Obama's 'Get Up & Get Moving' Program Linked to Increase in Pedestrian Deaths," while Clarice Feldman of Pajamas Media wrote that "Michelle's 'Get Moving' Led to Increases in Pedestrian Deaths." The Daily Caller didn't want to be left out of the story, and produced a story with the headline "First Lady's anti-obesity campaign could be causing more pedestrian deaths."
From the Examiner:
First lady Michelle Obama's campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn't know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths.
But the "get moving" movement, led by Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.
The Examiner had this tidbit four paragraphs in, however:
"There's an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle]," said Harsha, who conceded to having no scientific evidence that the Let's Move campaign has led to an increase in walkers and runners, or deaths. (our emphasis)
In comments to Media Matters, GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins called the story a "total sham," and said, "some people have an agenda" to tie the non-partisan group to a "partisan" story, and noted that more mainstream outlets like USA Today reported the story accurately. Adkins said that GHSA "support[s]" the Let's Move program. Adkins also told Media Matters that none of their research showed any connection at all between the Let's Move program and pedestrian deaths.
TBD.com spoke to Harsha after the story gained traction:
Well, the folks at GHSA were awfully surprised when they read this morning's paper. In fact, Harsha tells us, she didn't tell the Examiner that at all. "It's ridiculous," she says. According to Harsha, the first lady's fitness campaign never even came up in her discussion with [Scott] McCabe. "Absolutely not," she says, adding that she actually supports the "Let's Move" campaign.
But as McCabe points out to us, the Obama nugget came from the GHSA's pitch to him for the story, which he passed along: "Why the increase? We don't really know but speculate that it could be a couple factors. One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We've been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to 'get moving' programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased."
Harsha says her theorizing to the Examiner never went beyond the predictable and mundane: More people seem to be walking and running, particularly while listening to music or fiddling with their smartphones, and not paying attention to traffic signals. "What we were trying to say is if people do walk more, there's more risk," says Harsha. "We're concerned with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, and we need to monitor it. Maybe some education needs to be done for people who are into physical fitness."
This is just sad.
Presented with a fatally flawed report that omits critical evidence disproving allegations that the Obama administration refuses to enforce voting-rights laws when the alleged perpetrators are racial minorities, Bush era DOJ official Hans von Spakovsky has turned to misrepresentation to revive the phony New Black Panther Party scandal.
Yesterday, Spakovsky got his hands on a draft report detailing the conservative-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' utterly discredited "investigation" into the DOJ's handling of voter-intimidation charges that were filed against members of the New Black Panther Party. Right-wing activists connected to Bush-era politicization of the DOJ claimed the case illustrated "hostility" within the DOJ toward enforcing voting rights laws when the alleged defendant was a racial minority.
In a Pajamas Media post, von Spakovsky claims the report is "devastating." And to prove just how "devastating" it is, von Spakovsky distorted what the report actually said, taking the report's descriptions of testimony presented by Christopher Coates and J. Christian Adams -- both of whom were connected to the politicization of the Justice Department during the Bush administration -- and presenting that testimony as the conclusions of the commission itself.
Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott writes in an October 12 blog post: "Nobody knows with certainty how many illegal votes were cast in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, but odds are the total was in the millions, thanks to systematic vote fraud campaigns by leftist groups such as ACORN and mis-guided laws that allow individuals to register and vote on the same day."
Tapscott, however, offers no evidence of "systematic vote fraud" that resulted in "illegal votes" numbering "in the millions" -- perhaps because it didn't happen. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2008, election experts say that voter registration issues that had been associated with ACORN rarely result in fraudulent votes being cast because false and duplicate registrations are typically weeded out. The Chronicle goes on to state that "it's virtually impossible to pull off large-scale voter fraud without being discovered."
Tapscott's reference to ACORN is nothing more than yet another invocation of a right-wing bogeyman that has become so played out that it was getting tossed around indiscriminately; The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for instance, insisted that one purported case involved people who allegedly "associated in the past with Acorn" that "may have" been involved in "advising" people "on how to perform" voter fraud, citing unnamed "local politicos." Scaremongering aside, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed out that any actual vote fraud cases allegedly involving ACORN have been isolated.
Tapscott's baseless claim came in service to promoting Pajamas Media's "Voter Fraud Watch." He touted how one prominent name linked to Pajamas Media's project is "J. Christian Adams, the courageous former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on the Obama administration's craven cave-in to Political Correctness and left-wing ideology in the New Black Panthers Case."
The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.
Right-wing media are citing the testimony of Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to revive the phony New Black Panther Party scandal. But Coates reportedly became "a true member of the team" in the highly politicized Bush DOJ.
Earlier today, J. Christian Adams called on readers to "ponder" how the Justice Department's handling of voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party could "restrain future enforcement activity against intimidation." Imagine, Adams asks, if the allegations involved white men harassing minority voters:
Think about this -- even taking the facts in the most favorable light for the defenders of the dismissal, ponder how it restrains future enforcement activity against intimidation. There may come a day when two skinheads are in front of a poll, say, in suburban Atlanta. The precinct is 90 percent white, but about 10 percent African-American. One has a baseball bat, but the other does not. They are dressed identically in skinhead uniforms with swastika insignia. They work together and shout racial slurs we all know and hate. Worse, the week before, the national skinhead party had announced a nationwide deployment of skinheads, and these clowns show up on cue. NAACP poll monitors there to aid voters see voters turn away upon seeing the skinheads. The skinheads try to block the NAACP staff from entering the polls, and brandish the bat. The NAACP staff swear this all happened under oath. Then days later the national skinhead leader admits they were indeed deployed as part of the party activities and the use of the weapon was an "emergency response."
Worse, after claiming to banish these two skinheads, video emerges with the national leader standing on stage with the two at a rally, praising them and welcoming them back into the skinhead nation.
Every American knows what should happen on these facts. Sadly, these facts are precisely identical to what happened in Philadelphia, except the races are reversed.
Someone with some intellectual honesty please explain to all of us something. In the future, how can the DOJ stop the behavior I described above? The dismissal of the case against the New Black Panthers harms future efforts to stop voter intimidation, especially on any fact pattern less egregious than what happened in Philadelphia.
The only thing devoid of intellectual honesty here is Adams' argument. Adams joined the Bush-era Justice Department voting section in 2005. According to Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, the Justice Department in 2006 declined to bring charges against members of the Minutemen, one of whom reportedly carried a gun while they allegedly attempted to intimidate Hispanic voters outside a polling station in Arizona. By contrast, the Justice Department under the Obama administration successfully obtained default judgment against Samir Shabazz, the member of the New Black Panther Party who carried a weapon outside a polling station on Election Day 2008. The Obama DOJ has also requested additional judgment against black leaders in Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.
Of course, in 2006 Fox News never told the media to cover the alleged voter intimidation.
Race-baiting has been a central element to the phony New Black Panthers scandal from the start, despite the fact that right-wing activist J. Christian Adams' accusations do not stand up to the evidence. But court filings earlier this week, in which the Obama Justice Department is asking a federal court to extend its injunction against black leaders in Mississippi for discriminating against white voters, should end once and for all the scurrilous accusation that the Obama administration is hostile to prosecuting black defendants on behalf of white victims.
In 2007, a federal court found that Ike Brown, the black chairman of the Noxubee (Mississippi) County Democratic Executive Committee, had engaged in systematic discrimination against white voters and appointed Judge Reuben Anderson to oversee Democratic primaries and runoffs though 2011. The Associated Press called the case "the first of its kind in the country, accusing black political leaders of discriminating against white voters." Earlier this week, the Obama Justice Department filed a motion to prevent Brown from establishing a closed Democratic Primary that the DOJ argued would discriminate against white voters. The Justice Department asked the court to extend its 2007 injunction for two years and to ensure that Brown could not seek to implement voting changes during that time. The DOJ's actions in the Noxubee case further destroys the accusation leveled by right-wing activists that the Obama Justice Department is engaging in race-based justice.
Incredibly, J. Christian Adams and The Washington Times present the DOJ's handling of the case as further evidence of its hostility toward white victims. In a July 13 Pajamas Media post, Adams wrote that "the Department of Justice blew an opportunity to put to rest the issue of whether they are willing to enforce the Voting Rights Act in a race-neutral fashion by objecting to a request by a proven discriminator to further discriminate." Adams said that the Justice Department's handling of the case showed that "they do not want whites and Asians, when they are the discriminated-against minority, to be protected under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act." According to The Washington Times, the Obama Justice Department "did not object" to Brown's request and "issued a 'no determination' letter that ... effectively leaves the issue open for another day."
In a July 1 Pajamas Media post, Roger L. Simon published a statement from J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Deparment lawyer who has made unsubstantiated allegations that the DOJ improperly dismissed voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for political reasons:
Adams told Pajamas Media:
I was appalled and disappointed by the DOJ yesterday. They included a blatant lie in their response to my interview. They told Fox News I had been "unhappy with my position." Not only would this be a personnel matter they aren't supposed to discuss, it's a fairy tale. In fact on April 28 I got a promotion, so maybe they can let me know what position I was unhappy with.
The problem with smearing me is that there are many others who know the truth inside the Department. Documents which they refuse to turn over pursuant to subpoenas from the Civil Rights Commission prove it. Testimony from other DOJ employees, which they refuse to allow, would also prove it.
Simon went on to write:
Indeed, there may be "others who know the truth," and it will be interesting to see what emerges. If there is racial discrimination in the Department of Justice, that is something we should all know about, so that it can be corrected as quickly as possible.
Pajamas Media and PJTV will be posting more information about this in the days to come. Watch this space and PJTV for more, including awards and promotions given Adams -- the man whose reputation the Department is now attempting to tarnish -- by the very DOJ only months ago.
If this were another administration -- no doubt if this were the Bush administration -- a veritable army of reporters would be assigned to this story with visions of Pulitzers dancing in their heads.
But given our current media environment, this is the kind of potential scandal that could easily be swept under the rug.
Pajamas Media will continue to work with Chris Adams to get his story out. He will have more details for us next Tuesday, after his scheduled testimony before the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
In fact, as Media Matters has noted, Adams is a longtime Republican activist, and Simon's suggestion of a double standard is contradicted by the fact that the during the Bush administration, the DOJ declined pursue to similar voter-intimidation charges in a case involving the Minutemen.
Right-wing blogs have recently seized on a report that criticized the Obama administration for not purchasing oil containment boom that a manufacturer in Maine produced specifically for the Gulf oil spill. However, they ignored that the boom is a new product, which reportedly "differs from other designs being used," and BP has reportedly "ordered a trial run" of the boom before committing to purchase it.
From the front page of PajamasMedia.com, accessed February 1:
The link goes to a video (registration required) entitled "President's Message Shoot First, Blog Later: Roger, Breitbart & Top Web Journos Go Shooting With Texas Gov. Rick Perry," in which Breitbart states that he "need[s]" a gun "these days with SEIU and ACORN."
After hackers reportedly stole emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), word of the criminal breach and use of the emails to attempt to undermine the overwhelming consensus on global warming moved from the blogs of climate-change skeptics, where links to the emails were originally posted by anonymous commenters, to foreign media outlets and right-wing political blogs. Media Matters for America tracks the story's movement across the Internet, which took less than two days and culminated in a call by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) for an investigation into "the IPCC and on the United Nations on the way that they cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled."