GOP civil rights commissioner: Race-based charge against DOJ is "simply impossible to believe"

Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

The phony-right wing accusation that the Justice Department has "a hostility" to pursuing voting rights cases on behalf of white voters against black defendants has always maintained a tenuous relationship with reality. After all, the very voter intimidation case underlying the charade involved the Obama Justice Department successfully obtaining an injunction against a member of the New Black Panther Party for carrying a nightstick outside a Philadelphia polling station, whereas the main source of the allegations is a longtime GOP activist who has acknowledged lacking firsthand knowledge of the claims he made to support his accusations. According to transcript of the August 13 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights meeting that Media Matters has obtained, Republican vice chairwoman Abigail Thernstrom further exposed the absurdity of the charges against the department, calling a key allegation supporting the bogus charges "simply impossible to believe."

Advancing his unsubstantiated allegations before the commission in July, GOP activist J. Christian Adams accused Julie Fernandes, a Justice Department lawyer, of saying that "cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims." Adams made clear during his testimony that he had no firsthand knowledge of Fernandes actually saying that. The next day, Adams took his accusations to Fox News' Megy Kelly, as Kelly and Adams pushed the notion that Fernandes handed down "a mandate" that "the law not be enforced" because she believed it would "not encourage turnout." Kelly added that, if true, Fernandes would be "sanctioning voter fraud" in order to "encourage minority turnout."

Kelly -- a driving force behind Fox News' promotion of the trumped up scandal -- again trumpeted Adams' allegations during a July 8 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, saying Adams "said that it is well-known that if the DOJ would let these other attorneys within the voting rights section talk, they would confirm that she has instructed lawyers within the voting rights section not to bring a voter intimidation case or a voting rights case if the defendant is black and the victim is white" (via Nexis). Former DOJ official Hans von Spakovsy also forwarded the allegations in a July 21 blog post, where Spakovsky cited "sworn testimony" that Fernandes "instructed Voting Section lawyers that no cases would be brought against any black or other minority defendants no matter how egregious their violations of the law."

However, during the August 13 Civil Rights Commission hearing Thernstrom said: "It is simply impossible to believe that Julie Fernandes said anything remotely like 'We are not going to enforce civil rights laws when blacks are defendants.' " Thernstrom has previously said that the commission's inquiry "doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers" and that conservatives on the commission wanted to use the case to "topple the administration"

From the transcript obtained by Media Matters:

VICE CHAIR THERNSTROM: It is simply impossible to believe that Julie Fernandes said anything remotely like "We are not going to enforce civil rights laws when blacks are defendants."

I mean, she cannot have said that. Maybe she said something that some people interpreted as saying that. But she surely didn't announce that. I mean, unless she is some sort of moron - and she certainly could not have been speaking for the Department if she was a moron.

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