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  • Civil rights commissioner blasts conservative panel's "hatchet job" attack on DOJ

    Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

    During its meeting on Friday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was denied a chance to vote on its report attacking the Obama Justice Department over the phony New Black Panthers scandal by a walkout by Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, which left the commission without a quorum. In a statement to Media Matters, Yaki ripped the conservative majority that controls the commission, saying that it "has manipulated the process in a manner designed to exclude myself and Commissioners [Arlan] Melendez and [Abigail] Thernstrom, who have opposed this farce from the beginning":

    The majority has manipulated the process in a manner designed to exclude myself and Commissioners Melendez and Thernstrom, who have opposed this farce from the beginning. By cancelling last week's meeting at the 11th hour and scheduling today's meeting without consulting our schedules, both Melendez and Thernstrom were denied the opportunity to have their voices heard. When the majority failed to muster their 5 members for quorum, they effectively doomed their own chance to ram this flawed report through.

    He also said of the majority, "In their zeal to vote this out before the election, they overreached -- and fell one member short. It's not my job to ensure they have quorum to shove this hatchet job out the door when they have 5 votes -- a quorum -- in their pocket":

    We already had our one meeting in October on the 8th. We are part time government officials, with schedules and jobs. They could have voted this out on the 22nd. In their zeal to vote this out before the election, they overreached -- and fell one member short. It's not my job to ensure they have quorum to shove this hatchet job out the door when they have 5 votes -- a quorum -- in their pocket.

    As we have noted, the allegation that the Obama DOJ engaged in racially charged "corruption" while prosecuting the case doesn't stand up to the facts. The decision not to pursue criminal charges in the case was made during the Bush administration, and the Obama Justice Department successfully obtained an injunction against the New Black Panther Party member at the center of the investigation.

  • Family Research Council leads fight against opponents of anti-gay bullying

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Family Research Council president Tony Perkins recently suggested that gay youths who committed suicide after being bullied were actually responding to their "despair" after being told by gay-rights groups that "they are 'born gay' and can never change." The FRC has long sought to minimize anti-gay bullying and attacked those who seek to stop it.

  • Crowley ridiculously claims Obama is trying "to have international law hold sway over the U.S. Constitution"

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    Following a pattern of absurd, baseless, and false charges lobbed against the Justice Department by Fox News, today Fox's Monica Crowley claimed on America Live that there is a "concerted effort" by President Obama and Attorney General Holder to "open the door to international law, to have international law hold sway over the U.S. Constitution." Crowley also claimed that Obama and Holder are "waging war against the American people."

    Crowley and America Live host Megyn Kelly were attacking the Obama administration because the governments of Mexico and other Latin American countries had filed a brief arguing that Arizona's controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, violated the U.S. Constitution. Crowley suggested that the Justice Department should have opposed the Latin American countries' motions to be allowed to file a brief.

    In fact, there's nothing in the Latin American countries' brief or the federal government's brief suggesting that international law is relevant to the question of whether S.B. 1070 is unconstitutional. Furthermore, there's nothing unusual or nefarious about a foreign government filing a brief in U.S. court.

  • Wash. Post: New Black Panthers controversy "fueled by partisan hyperbole, conspiracy theories and misinformation"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an October 4 editorial headlined "Right call on the Black Panthers," The Washington Post wrote that the phony New Black Panthers scandal "has been fueled by partisan hyperbole, conspiracy theories and misinformation." The editorial concluded, "Far from acting recklessly, the Justice Department did what every law enforcement entity is ethically obligated to do: press only those charges that are supported by evidence." From the editorial:

    Critics charged the Obama Justice Department with refusing to apply civil rights law in a colorblind fashion; the Justice Department, they argued, would never have watered down the case had the alleged wrongdoers been white. The matter made headlines again last week because of allegations by Christopher Coates, the Justice Department lawyer who originally brought the case, that the voting rights section has long been "hostile" to anything but cases in which minorities are victims, not perpetrators. These assertions should be explored by the department's Office of Inspector General in its review of the voting rights section.

    But even Mr. Coates did not offer specific evidence that the department acted improperly. For example, there is no evidence that [King Samir] Shabazz's actions were directed or incited by the party or its national leader; the party essentially repudiated Mr. Shabazz in a posting on its Web site and later suspended the Philadelphia chapter. The second Black Panther at the voting facility was a certified poll watcher and appears not to have verbally or physically attempted to intimidate voters.

    Much of the controversy that has surrounded this case for more than a year has been fueled by partisan hyperbole, conspiracy theories and misinformation. Far from acting recklessly, the Justice Department did what every law enforcement entity is ethically obligated to do: press only those charges that are supported by evidence.

    Indeed, the right-wing media -- led by Fox News -- have relied on completely unsubstantiated allegations about what Justice Department officials have said about enforcing voting-rights laws in a racially neutral manner, rather than reporting on actions by the DOJ that clearly show it has, in fact, enforced those laws when the alleged violators are racial minorities.

  • Fox News responds to EEOC lawsuit with baseless accusation of political influence

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    In a move worthy of its marquee personality Glenn Beck, Fox News has responded to the filing of a civil rights lawsuit against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by suggesting that the lawsuit is part of a political conspiracy to attack Fox News. One could say that the EEOC is now on Fox News' chalkboard.

    The EEOC lawsuit claims that Fox News retaliated against one of its reporters, Catherine Herridge, "after she complained to Fox that she was subjected to disparate pay and unequal employment opportunities because of her gender and age." The retaliation allegedly consisted of putting "language in Herridge's employment contract, which was set for renewal, that referenced Herridge's discrimination complaints and was intended to stop Herridge from making more of them in the future" and then refusing to negotiate after Herridge demanded that the language be removed. Because of Fox's actions, Herridge spent months as an at-will employee who could be fired for no reason by Fox.

    According to Mediaite's Steve Krakauer, Fox News Executive Vice President for Legal & Business Affairs Dianne Brandi stated that the EEOC's actions were "partisan" and "politically motivated":

    The EEOC's suspiciously timed press release is nothing more than a partisan statement about a politically motivated lawsuit. The suit alleges Catherine complained to FOX News management she was being discriminated against due to her sex and age, and an internal investigation found her claims to be baseless.

    Fox provides no evidence to back up its claims, and the facts are not on Fox's side. Indeed, while the EEOC does have a number of Obama-appointed officials, it is an independent agency. Once appointed, the commissioners serve for a five year term, giving them independence from the political branches.

    And it's not like Fox and its parent News Corp. are strangers to discrimination lawsuits. In fact, among the discrimination suits filed against Fox News was one brought by the EEOC and settled during the Bush administration. I guess the Bush administration was engaged in anti-Fox "partisanship" as well.

    Furthermore, the suit against Herridge is in line with EEOC practice. The EEOC says the anti-retaliation provisions of anti-discrimination laws "are exceptionally broad." In its compliance manual, dated May 1998, the EEOC states:

    The statutory retaliation clauses prohibit any adverse treatment that is based on a retaliatory motive and is reasonably likely to deter the charging party or others from engaging in protected activity.

    [...]

    The Commission's position is based on statutory language and policy considerations. The anti-retaliation provisions are exceptionally broad. They make it unlawful "to discriminate" against an individual because of his or her protected activity. This is in contrast to the general anti-discrimination provisions which make it unlawful to discriminate with respect to an individual's "terms, conditions, or privileges of employment." The retaliation provisions set no qualifiers on the term "to discriminate," and therefore prohibit any discrimination that is reasonably likely to deter protected activity.

    The Supreme Court largely embraced the EEOC's position in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White.

    And the EEOC has previously filed lawsuits alleging that employers retaliated against employees who complained about discrimination by attempting to limit their ability to complain in the future.

  • O'Reilly, Kelly can't keep basic facts straight on phony New Black Panthers story

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Discussing Justice Department lawyer Christopher Coates' testimony on the phony New Black Panthers Party scandal, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly pushed claims that the case shows the Obama administration's Justice Department is "not interested" in protecting white voters from discrimination. But their claims were riddled with falsehoods and misrepresentations.

  • A "true member of the team": Coates defends Schlozman's hiring moves

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    Christopher Coates testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that he believed he was the individual Bradley Schlozman identified as a "true member of the team" during the highly politicized Bush Justice Department.

    In January, The American Prospect's Adam Serwer reported:

    At first glance, Coates' extensive experience with voting rights -- he first worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and later the Justice Department -- made him look like just another career attorney. But Coates' current and former colleagues at the Justice Department say Coates underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000. Outraged, Coates filed a complaint alleging he was passed up for the job because he is white. The matter was settled internally.

    "He thought he should have been hired instead of her," said one former official in the Voting Section. "That had an impact on his views ... he became more conservative over time."

    Coates' star rose during the Bush administration, during which he was promoted to principal deputy section chief. While not mentioned by name, Coates has been identified by several current and former Justice Department officials as the anonymous Voting Section lawyer, referred to in the joint Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report, that Schlozman recommended for an immigration judge position. Immigration judges have jurisdiction over whether or not foreign nationals are deported. In his letter to Monica Goodling, a former senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who was implicated in the scandal involving politicized hiring, Schlozman wrote of Coates:

    Don't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team. [The American Prospect, 1/8/10]

    The Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General's office concluded in a 2008 report that Schlozman violated federal law and DOJ policy by using political ideology to guide personnel decisions, pointing out that he discussed removing "disloyal" "liberals" while hiring conservative "real Americans."

    Today, Coates defended those hiring practices, saying:

    Mr. Schlozman found a Civil Rights Division that was almost totally left-liberal in the basis of the ideology of the people who were working in it, and that he made some concerted effort to diversify the division so that conservatives as well as liberals could find work there.

  • Christopher Coates and "the height of hypocrisy"

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates testified today that the Bush-era DOJ ignored his recommendation to investigate allegations that armed agents in Mississippi intimidated black voters.

    Coates, who wanted the DOJ under Obama to pursue additional voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, testified today before the conservative-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Republican vice chairwoman of the commission has criticized the inquiry as part of a "wild notion" conservatives on the commission have to "topple" the Obama administration.

    During the hearing, Coates testified that in 2005, Bradley Schlozman overrode his recommendation to continue investigating claims that officials in the Mississippi Attorney General's office intimidated black voters:

    COMMISSIONER MICHAEL YAKI: You were also there in 2005. There were allegations that investigators for the State of Mississippi who were armed went into the homes of elderly, minority voters, in municipal elections asking them who they voted for. Generally for them, they felt very intimidated. I believe that a complaint was relayed to the Civil Rights Division. Can you tell me what the disposition of that complaint was?

    COATES: Yes. And since Mr. Perez talked about that in his testimony, I'm going to talk about that, too. I was in charge of that investigation as the principal deputy. And we interviewed African-American voters in Panola - the name or that jurisdiction is Panola County Mississippi. We interviewed telephonically witnesses who had some investigators from the Attorney General's office come in. They were doing a voter fraud investigation. They asked these people they interviewed for whom they voted.

    There is a Mississippi law that prohibits that except in very special circumstances. Judge Lee, for example, in the Ike Brown case would not let lawyers on either side ask for whom people voted. We did that investigation, and I recommended that we do a complete investigation in Panola County, because I felt that those questions were inappropriate and improper, and it was not a way to conduct, properly conduct a voting fraud investigation. My recommendation in that regard was not followed, and the matter was not followed up.

    YAKI: Who did you send the recommendation to?

    COATES: Mr. Schlozman.

    The Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General's office concluded in its 2008 report that Schlozman improperly politicized ideology in making personnel decisions and discussed removing "disloyal" "liberals" while hiring conservative "real Americans."