Fox News suggested that past hate crime prosecution decisions proved that the Obama Justice Department acted politically, citing prosecutorial efforts by the Bush administration.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson proposed that the decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether or not the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was based on racial animus was part of a political decision making scheme unique to Obama's DOJ. To illustrate her point, Carlson claimed that the Obama administration decided to prosecute three hate crime cases while dismissing a case against the National Black Panther Party (NBPP):
CARLSON: Alright, thanks so much Steve. Since the Obama administration took office, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted these three cases you see on your screen there, all of which involve racially motivated hate crimes where the victim was a minority. Yet, at the same time, the DOG [sic] dismissed the Black Panther case -- you remember that one from the 2008 election -- where these individuals were seen intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling location. So, as the DOJ considers hate crime charges against George Zimmerman now, many people are asking, are they playing politics when it comes to racism?
The following graphic aired during Carlson's remarks:
As the graphic makes clear by providing dates, Carlson pointed to three cases initially prosecuted by the Bush administration to claim that “since the Obama administration took office,” the DOJ has prosecuted cases only when the victim was a minority. Yet these cases were all started and decided before “the Obama administration took office” on January 20, 2009.
Moreover, Carlson's claim that the Obama administration chose not to pursue a civil suit against the NBPP for voter intimidation is misleading. Like the other cases, the Bush DOJ brought a civil suit against three NBPP members who showed up at polls during the 2008 election. The Obama DOJ later pursued action against the member brandishing a night stick, obtaining an injunction, and dropped the cases against the other two members.
Experts across the political spectrum contend that the Obama DOJ took the correct action.
The case involving the NBPP is the only example of the Obama administration's involvement in any of the cases cited by Carlson, and it was merely an effort started by the Bush administration to pursue a civil rights violation, one found to be committed by a black man.
Media Matters intern Charlie Rafkin contributed to this post.