In the fifteen days following Megyn Kelly's June 30, 2010, interview hyping the unsubstantiated allegations of right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, six Fox News shows devoted 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime to the phony New Black Panthers scandal. By contrast, those shows have devoted a total of two segments and 88 seconds to the Justice Department's release of the results of an internal investigation clearing DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.
I'm sure you are shocked to read this, but J. Christian Adams, the former DOJ attorney and Republican activist who has been the prime mover of the New Black Panther Party conspiracy theory, is not moving on with his life now that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has found no evidence of wrongdoing in the DOJ's handling of the case. Instead, Adams is using his platform at the right-wing blog Pajamas Media to continue his attacks.
In an appearance yesterday on PJTV, Adams claimed that the report showed "there's more amazing things that the taxpayers would be shocked that this is how the Justice Department runs law enforcement." Specifically, Adams highlighted that Steve Rosenbaum, a senior DOJ attorney who called for the trial team to be overruled and the case be narrowed, suggested that the trail team "should go out in the community, the investigators should talk to people, 'What do you think about the Black Panthers? What's their reputation? Do you kind of know them?'" Adams added, "It was this crazy, 'You didn't do enough investigation because you didn't see what people's feelings were.'"
Adams is carefully extracting what he apparently considers a laughable idea from Rosenbaum's extremely damning criticism of the trial team's failure to adequately investigate the case. From the report, regarding Rosenbaum's review of the trial team's J Memo as of May 14, 2009:
Rosenbaum said that, in his opinion, the information in the J Memo reflected an incomplete factual investigation. Rosenbaum Transcript at 307. He was surprised at the absence of basic information about the specifics of what transpired at 1221 Fairmount Avenue on election day, such as how long the NBPP members were present or what Jackson did or said after Samir Shabazz left. Id. at 306, 308. Rosenbaum said he expected a memorandum that described the NBPP team's efforts to contact witnesses, such as contacting both the Republican and Democratic officials who may have been present; interviewing all of the poll watchers and poll workers to determine what they saw or heard; interviewing people who lived or worked in the building, to determine if they had witnessed the incident, or if Jackson and Samir Shabazz were known in the community and how they were regarded. Id. at 307-09. Rosenbaum said the NBPP team also could have accessed the voter list to try to contact voters who may have witnessed the incident, particularly if they were able to identify individuals who voted in the morning. Id. At 308-09. Instead, Rosenbaum noted, it appeared that the factual investigation was based largely on talking only to Republican party members who - were in Philadelphia or at the polling place, without including the accounts of Democratic party officials or other people who were present at the polls that day. [emphasis added]
I can see why Adams wants to talk about Rosenblum's alleged excessive attention to "people's feelings" rather than his criticisms of the trial team's failure to even attempt to find an intimidated voter for their voter intimidation case, or the coincidental way all the poll watchers and poll workers they interviewed happened to be Republicans.
That said, Adams' criticism of Rosenbaum makes no sense in and of itself.
Along with clearing the Obama Justice Department of wrongdoing in its handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, showing that an Obama administration appointee said that the case could not be dismissed in full, and revealing that the NBPP trial team seemed to withhold exculpatory information in its dealing with senior Justice Department attorneys, the Office of Professional Responsibility's report appears to clear up a loose end that has long gone unexplained -- and exposes the trial team as petty, deceitful, and incompetent.
One of the original claims made by former DOJ attorney, GOP activist, and conservative blogger J. Christian Adams in his first Fox News interview on the case was that one of the senior Justice Department attorneys who overruled the trial team's recommendations "hadn't even read the memos which detailed all of the facts and the law before he started arguing against the case." According to Adams, this indicated that for that lawyer, Steve Rosenbaum, "the mind was mind up," supposedly due to political partisanship and the Obama administration's unwillingness to enforce the law in a race-neutral manner. From the interview:
MEGYN KELLY: You say there is evidence that they did not review the facts of this case and even the briefs of this case.
ADAMS: Yeah. It's obviously false that they knew all the evidence. They -- Steve Rosenbaum hadn't even read the memos which detailed all of the facts and the law before he started arguing against the case. The mind was made up.
And it was so derelict and so corrupt that Chris Coates actually threw the memo at Rosenbaum and said, "How dare you make these arguments without even knowing what's in the briefs?"
Adams was making these claims based on his conversations with Christopher Coates, who had been the head of the Voting Section at the time of the case, about Coates' May 1, 2009, meeting with deputy Voting Section chief Robert Popper and Rosenbaum and Loretta King, both of whom were senior career DOJ attorneys who were serving as acting deputy assistant attorney general and acting assistant attorney general. At that meeting, King and Rosenbaum criticized the trial team's handling of the case.
In a September 2010 hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Coates said that he would not testify "about the statements made during my meetings with Ms. King and Mr. Rosenbaum because of the DOJ's assertion of the deliberative process privilege." An October 2010 Weekly Standard article on the case based largely on interviews with the trial team reports only that the meeting led to "two days of shouting."
The OPR report appears to indicate that the statement that Rosenbaum "hadn't even read the memos" is based on Rosenbaum's lack of familiarity with a parenthetical reference in one of those memos that did not even make the point about which he was inquiring to the trial team.
This afternoon, the House Committee on the Judiciary posted on their website the full report of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility from their investigation into the controversy surrounding DOJ's handling of the New Black Panther Party case. As previously indicated by OPR's March 29 letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), that committee's chairman, the report conclusively debunks the wild claims that the right-wing media has been making about the case.
As I noted when the letter was released, the right wing has been obsessed for nearly two years with the decision by senior career attorneys to drop civil charges against three defendants affiliated with the New Black Panther Party who allegedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. Those conspiracies have always seemed farfetched and politically motivated, but have now been definitely rebutted.
Right-wing media have claimed that the DOJ's actions were directed by top political appointees, including Attorney General Eric Holder, and asserted that only political partisanship or hostility to race-neutral justice could explain the decision to overrule the trial team. The OPR report found those claims to be utterly unfounded.
An hour and a half into today's broadcast of Fox News' America Live, after two days of completely ignoring the story, Megyn Kelly finally got to reporting on the Office of Professional Responsibility's statement that they had completed their review of the Justice Department's handling of the New Black Panther Party case and determined that DOJ's attorneys engaged in no "professional wrongdoing." For 20 seconds.
The brief reference to the OPR statement came in the middle of a one-minute-four-second news brief which largely focused on Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) demand to the DOJ for documents related to the case:
KELLY: Well, new developments today in the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. Congressman Frank Wolf now giving the Department of Justice a 30-day deadline to produce documents on why it essentially dropped major portions of that voter intimidation case. You may remember on Election Day in 2008 members of the New Black Panther Party were caught on videotape holding a nightstick and hurling racial taunts at white and black voters as they entered a polling station in Philadelphia. The Department of Justice decided internally, in connection with an internal probe, that no wrongdoing occurred, and that neither race nor politics played any role - no politics, I should say -- in the dismissal of those charges. Now, that's from the DOJ's Office of Professional Conduct, clearing essentially the lawyers in the case. Now that the DOJ 's investigation is over, Congressman Wolf is pushing Congress to get their hands on the documents. He's the chair of the subcommittee on Commerce and Justice that's been looking into this case.
So if you're following:
J. Christian Adams and Hans Von Spakovsky, the chief proponents of the New Black Panther Party manufactured scandal, have branded as "uber-political" "militant leftist partisan[s]," "hyper-Democratic loyalist[s]," and "liberal ideologues" those who disagree with their interpretation of the Justice Department's handling of the case. This is ironic given their own partisan and ideological records.
The Washington Times editorial board writes today:
The Justice Department continues to do its best to whitewash its involvement in the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. The department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) wrote Tuesday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar S. Smith to say it found no "misconduct" in Obama administration political appointees overruling career attorneys in dropping most charges and penalties against the individuals who stood menacingly outside a polling place in military-style uniforms, holding nightsticks.
The text of OPR's report, which took 19 months to complete, remains under wraps. That's not surprising considering the office has long been a hotbed for liberal attorneys.
Two weeks ago, former DOJ attorney and GOP activist J. Christian Adams wrote :
The New Black Panther fix is in. I have learned through sources inside and outside the Department of Justice that the long-awaited internal report on the New Black Panther voter intimidation dismissal is done, and sensible Americans aren't going to be happy. In essence, it will adopt the outrageous position of Attorney General Eric Holder when he testified to Congressman Frank Wolf's Appropriations subcommittee a few weeks ago: all this fuss about the New Black Panther dismissal does a disservice to his people, or to quote the attorney general at the hearing, "my people."
Technically, reports produced by OPR are never released to the public. If the report is leaked, it will be a sure sign the fix is in.
So let me get this straight. Two weeks ago, proponents of the absurd theory that the decision by senior career attorneys at DOJ to drop charges against several of the defendants in the New Black Panther Party case was motivated by race were claiming that if the OPR report was leaked, it would be evidence of liberal bias at DOJ. Now that the report hasn't been released, the fabulists are claiming that that is evidence of liberal bias at DOJ.
This is just getting sad.
Here's Megyn Kelly's report on the last night's news that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has concluded an extensive investigation and determined that Obama administration DOJ attorneys engaged in no "professional wrongdoing" in their handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case:
Oh, I'm sorry, that's actually her report on the allegation of a "studio cover-up" about how much dancing Natalie Portman did in the making of the movie Black Swan (In what I am sure is a coincidence, Black Swan was produced by fellow Newscorp affiliate Fox Searchlight Pictures, and the film's DVD was released yesterday). Kelly offered absolutely no coverage today of OPR's complete dismissal of the story that last year she essentially tried to make into the Watergate to her Woodward.
Yesterday, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility released the findings of its investigation into allegations that the Obama DOJ allowed racial and political considerations to affect its handling of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. According to OPR, there was "no evidence" that race or politics impacted the case and the DOJ "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately."
This represents the final step of the Fox Cycle: the mechanism by which bogus right-wing attacks become mainstream news. The central allegation of the New Black Panther controversy -- that the Obama DOJ dismissed charges against the fringe extremist group in accordance with a policy of racial preference that privileged African Americans -- has been debunked by the OPR investigation. That debunking, however, comes months after the frenzy of media coverage that wrongly tarnished the reputations of credibility of the attorney general and his subordinates.
The taxpayer dollars are irretrievably wasted, and the damage is already done. And that was the point all along, from the moment this ridiculous claptrap was dreamed up.
As for the media, the Washington Post mentioned the New Black Panthers in no fewer than 20 articles and opinion pieces in 2010, including a 2,600-word front-page piece detailing the case and the allegations of J. Christian Adams, the bogus story's chief agitator. Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander chastised the paper for being "virtually silent" on the story, writing that it was "a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide."
Today, news of the OPR's findings dismantling the entire "controversy" received 350 words. On page A4.
Thankfully, the Post's online properties are seizing on the story more aggressively. Writing on The Plum Line, Adam Serwer says the OPR findings make clear that the only reason the New Black Panther controversy exists is because it represented an "opportunity to inflame white resentment by leveling charges that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are racist against white people."
Of course, none of this is meant to suggest that the "controversy" will now simply disappear. The New Black Panther story's usefulness to the right was never predicated on its accuracy.
Earlier this month, GOP activist and New Black Panther Party provocateur J. Christian Adams took to Pajamas Media to breathlessly report that he had "learned through sources inside and outside the Department of Justice that the long-awaited internal report on the New Black Panther voter intimidation dismissal is done, and sensible Americans aren't going to be happy." Based on those "sources," Adams wrote of the then-pending report from Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (emphasis added):
What does the OPR report conclude? Indications are that it will conclude that nobody did anything improper in dismissing the case. But it apparently goes even further and concludes that the case was brought because of racial bias, or at least with an insensitivity to Mr. Holder's "people." In doing so, signs are that the authors of the report are perfectly willing to adopt some of the favorite lines of the extreme left-wing blogosphere about people who worked on the case and the principle of equally enforcing the law.
Americans know a whitewash when they see it, especially a racially unfair one.
That's right, Adams' DOJ sources were supposedly telling Adams that a branch of the federal government was about to officially brand him as a racist. I guess that's the sort of thing you can believe when you spend your time peddling the fantasy that DOJ is engaged in pattern of racially-charged corruption.
Today, the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility issued a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stating that in their handling of the voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panthers Party, senior career attorneys at DOJ "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately." The investigation also found "no evidence" that their decisions were improperly influenced by political considerations or by the race of the defendants.
This letter gives the lie to the theory promoted endlessly by Fox News that DOJ's decision to dismiss civil charges against some of the defendants in the case was the result of political malfeasance and racial politics. As former Democratic U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Michael Yaki has said, the investigation demonstrates that "there was nothing sinister or evidence of any racial bias" in the Obama DOJ's handling of the case.
But Fox has signaled that it won't take this new report lying down. A post on Fox Nation proclaims: "All Clear! DOJ Investigators Whitewash Black Panther Case."
The post provides absolutely no evidence of this supposed "whitewash." Other than the headline, the post simply reprints a few paragraphs from a TPMMuckraker article about the letter and directs people to TPMMuckraker for the full story.
Michael Yaki, who as a Democratic member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission led the opposition to the Commission's flawed investigation of the New Black Panther Party case, has released a statement indicating that the investigation by the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility demonstrates that "there was nothing sinister or evidence of any racial bias" in the Obama DOJ's handling of the case.
Yaki, who is currently awaiting reappointment also criticizes the USCCR's "so-called 'investigation'" as "a partisan-driven witch-hunt" and "a complete waste of money."
In a letter today to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, OPR's Robin Ashton wrote that her investigation into senior career officials' handling of the voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party found that they "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately." The investigation also found "no evidence" that their decisions were improperly affected by political considerations or by the race of the defendants.
Yaki's full statement reads:
The OPR findings affirm what I have stated over and over again: there was nothing sinister or evidence of any racial bias in the handling of the New Black Panther Party case by the Department of Justice under Eric Holder, and that the year and a half so-called "investigation' by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was a partisan-driven witch-hunt long on inflammatory rhetoric and desperately short on facts and a complete waste of taxpayer money.
In a letter today to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Robin Ashton of the Justice Departments Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote that her investigation found that in their handling of the voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, senior career attorneys at DOJ "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately." The investigation also found "no evidence" that their decisions were improperly affected by political considerations or by the race of the defendants.
For nearly two years, the right wing has been obsessed with the decision by those senior career attorneys to drop civil charges against three defendants affiliated with the New Black Panther Party who allegedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. This fixation became stronger last year, when two DOJ attorneys on the trial team who are linked the Bush administration's politicization of the DOJ claimed in media appearances and in testimony that the DOJ's actions were part of a pattern of racially-charged corruption at the department, in which lawyers there refused to protect white voters from intimidation by minorities.
These allegations received a ready airing on Fox News, but they simply never added up: There was simply no evidence that this was anything more than a disagreement between career attorneys on how to apply a rarely-used provision of the Voting Rights Act; the Obama DOJ did get obtain an injunction against one of the defendants in the case; it also took action in another case to protect white voters from intimidation by black political leaders; and the Bush administration had failed to take action in a similar case in which Latino voters were allegedly intimidated by whites.
As the story dissolved, a broad and bipartisan group of media and political figures dismissed the supposed scandal, with the Republican vice-chair of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission condemning that partisan group's investigationas an attempt "to topple the administration."
Nonetheless, there is little hope that the right-wing bitter-enders who have been pushing this story will accept the conclusions of OPR. Last week, the foremost proponents of the New Black Panthers conspiracy, J. Christian Adams and Hans Von Spakovsky, began claiming that the "fix is in" because Adams' sources at DOJ had said that OPR would find no wrongdoing on the part of the attorneys who overruled Adams and his trial team. The pair also began what will likely become a right-wing drumbeat intended to undermine Ashton and OPR.
It's worth pointing out that every new revelation in this case has only served to diminish their own credibility and highlight their partisan motives.
I have to hand it to the Daily Caller: They provide great stenography. If you're a right-winger and you want your claims credulously repeated, they're the ones to talk to -- especially if you want your partisan leanings disguised.
In the latest example, Tucker Carlson's vanity project devoted nearly 1,300 words to a hit piece attacking Loretta King, a career lawyer at the Department of Justice. The article is based on quotes from five conservatives who Daily Caller reporter Caroline May says are "wondering whether her guide is the law or racial politics." Incredibly, May carefully hides the right-wing backgrounds of all of those critics.
While May interviewed three right-wing King critics for the piece and quoted from statements by two other right-wing critics, she gives no indication that she attempted to find any King defenders. Instead, she provides comments from DOJ spokespersons that deal with specific issues with which King was involved, and reports that "King declined to comment to the DC" (it's not particularly surprising that a mid-level DOJ staffer refused to comment on the record for a right-wing publication's hit piece).
It's also worth pointing out that the Caller piece opens with a glaring error on a basic fact. The article is titled "Critics contend Assistant Attorney General Loretta King motivated more by racial politics than the law." May reports in the article's first sentence that King is "a little-known assistant attorney general." But King isn't an assistant attorney general; she's one of several deputy assistant attorneys general who report to Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights. She served for a time as acting assistant attorney general back in 2009, but that tenure ended in October of that year when Perez was sworn in.
It's telling that the Caller feels the need to fib about King's position in order to justify their article. I'd say this effort is embarrassing, but we're talking about the Daily Caller here.
J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky have a problem. For some time now, these right-wing operatives and former Justice Department lawyers have been beating the drum over the Obama Justice Department's actions in the New Black Panthers pseudoscandal. With that manufactured controversy continuing to fall apart, they are now desperately lashing out at perceived enemies in a frantic attempt to salvage it.
According to them, the decision by senior career lawyers at DOJ to drop charges against some of the defendants in the case demonstrates racially biased corruption. These claims never stood up to scrutiny, and now, according to Adams' DOJ sources, the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility is preparing to issue a report that will find that the attorneys who overruled Adams and his trial team did not act improperly.
Adams and von Spakovsky are responding by declaring that "the fix is in" and that the report is a "whitewash" (yes, they both use the exact same language). They are also attacking OPR and its head as "partisan." The irony is thick.