The right-wing media have repeatedly mischaracterized Attorney General Eric Holder's recent reference to “my people” to claim that he is a “black nationalist” or that the Obama Justice Department is motivated by “racial bias.” In his statement, Holder actually took issue with the suggestion that a 2008 incident involving the New Black Panther Party was a more “blatant form of voter intimidation” than what occurred in the 1960s; Holder said the suggestion “does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all.”
Holder Slams Suggestion That NBPP Incident “Is Greater In Magnitude” Than '60s-Era Incidents
Holder: Statement “Does A Great Disservice To People Who Put Their Lives On The Line, Who Risked All For My People, My Wife's Sister.” During a congressional hearing on funding for DOJ's Civil Rights Division, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) repeatedly questioned Holder on the New Black Panthers case, alleging that the “case reveals a pattern in the department of refusing to enforce the law if white voters are being harassed.” Culberson also read sworn testimony about the case from former Democratic activist Bartle Bull, saying that, according to Bull, the incident “would qualify as the most blatant form of voter intimidation I have encountered in my life in political campaigns in many states, even going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s.” Holder replied:
HOLDER: But, I mean, think about that. When you compare what people endured in the South in the '60s to try to get the right to vote for African-Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there, to what happened in Philadelphia, which is inappropriate -- it's certainly that -- but to call that -- to put it -- you describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all for my people, my wife's sister.
Anyway, the University of Alabama -- George Wallace stood in the door and said that she, as a state resident, could not attend the University of Alabama, Vivian Malone, who I'm proud to say was my sister-in-law -- to compare that kind of courage, that kind of action, and to say that the Black Panther incident, wrong though it might be, somehow is greater in magnitude or is a greater concern to us, historically, I think just flies in the face of history and in the facts. [House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, 3/1/11]
No Voters Have Said They Were Intimidated As A Result Of The New Black Panthers' Actions. In an April 23, 2010, hearing on the DOJ's decision in the case, Civil Rights Commissioner Arlan Melendez stated that “no citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting,” which “was clear to the Justice Department last spring, which is why they took the course of action that they did.” Similarly, a July 2, 2010, Main Justice article reported that “no voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation,” adding, “The complaints have come from white Republican poll watchers, who have given no evidence they were registered to vote in the majority black precinct.” [Media Matters, 7/19/10]
By Contrast, In The 1960s, People Attempting To Exercise Their Voting Rights Were Violently Attacked. A 1968 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that "[i]n the first week of March 1965 Negro and white demonstrators attempting to march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, the State capital, to dramatize their appeal for full voting rights, were attacked and tear-gassed by Alabama law enforcement officers." The report also states that violence and intimidation continued even after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including instances of gunfire and house burning. [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 5/68]
GOP Civil Rights Commissioner: “No Competent Historian” Would Agree That The New Black Panther Party Was “More Blatant Than What Went On In Mississippi In The 1960s.” From a National Review article by U.S. Civil Rights Commission vice chair Abigail Thernstrom:
The actions of two Black Panthers in one Philadelphia precinct in 2008 were not remotely equivalent to the effort to keep blacks from exercising their democratic rights throughout the South; the equation is breathtakingly ignorant. The Panthers are a tiny fringe group -- a handful of racist nuts. The KKK was a serious criminal conspiracy that terrorized millions of black Americans, and only massive intervention by the federal government could stamp it out. No competent historian would possibly endorse McCarthy and Bull's contention that the actions of two Panthers in one little corner of Philadelphia were more blatant than what went on in Mississippi in the 1960s. If this ludicrous and poisonous idea gains acceptance in conservative circles, it will do more damage to American race relations than anything the Panthers could possibly do. [National Review, 7/27/10]
Right-Wing Media Seize On Holder's Testimony To Accuse Him of Being “A Black Nationalist”
Beck: Holder's Comment Shows He “Needs To Be Able To Have The Idea That There Is Some Sort Of Race-Baiting Going On.” On his radio show, Fox News' Glenn Beck falsely asserted that the Obama DOJ did not prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party involved in the 2008 polling center incident. He further misrepresented Holder's comments at the hearing, claiming that Holder is “not gonna pursue [NBPP case] because to even bring this up -- to even talk about it, it is an insult to his people.” From Beck's radio show:
BECK: The Black Panther incident, if you remember right, it was during the election of the president, and it was in Philadelphia, and you had Black Panthers that were clearly being intimidating. It was clearly something that should be prosecuted, would've been prosecuted had it been any other time in American history -- I mean, I shouldn't say that -- any other time in modern American history. Of course not in the 1960s if it were a white guy, because a white guy would have been doing that, and that's what the whole civil rights thing was about. Don't intimidate voters.
Now, here's what happens. You have Eric Holder saying that he's not gonna do it. He's not gonna pursue that because to even bring this up and even talk about it, it is an insult to his people. It demeans “my people.” Eric, I want to know who your people are?
Now, here's why he's saying this, I believe. He's saying it for a couple of reasons. He is saying that don't demean “my people” because, well, he needs to have the -- he needs to be able to have the idea that there is some sort of race-baiting going on. He needs to be able to have a case that he can say, this is only because they're white and I'm black.
I believe that there is so much corruption at the Department of Justice, there's so many things going on right now that it is -- it's a nightmare. Once you open this can of worms, you're gonna find all kinds of stuff. I told you at, probably, eight months into this administration, when the investigations start, if they ever do start, you will find that this administration is more corrupt, it's gonna make Watergate look like a picnic. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/2/11]
Beck: “I Don't Have 'My People.' ... I Don't Think Of People As Mine Or The Enemy.” Discussing Holder's comments on his radio show, Beck further stated:
BECK: William [sic] Holder just happened to say out loud the truth: “my people.” The American people, sir, are your people. You are to serve all of the American people. That is what Martin Luther King marched for: equal justice; all people. You treat all people the same, period. You don't judge them by the color of their skin, you don't judge them by whether they have a union card or not. You judge them on the content of their character and on their actions. That's how you judge people.
BECK: Is there a difference between “my people” and the American people? I don't have “my people.” I don't think of -- I don't think of people as mine or the enemy. I think of them as Americans. And how can I convince good, decent Americans that they're on the wrong side? That they misunderstand? That is not what's happening here. And you need to watch for it because it is a dangerous, dangerous development. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/2/11]
Beck Says He “Owe[s]” Holder “An Apology” But Still Contends “You Could Take [Comment] Either Way.” The day after he blasted Holder for his comments, Beck again revisited Holder's remarks, saying that after hearing the audio of Holder's complete statement, “you give the speaker the benefit of the doubt.” He went on to say that it was possible Holder was referring to his family when he made the comment, saying, “I think, personally, I owe him an apology.” But he later added: “I think you could take it either way.” From the show:
PAT GRAY (co-host): And you gotta be in complete agreement, you can't compare what happened in Philadelphia to what African-Americans went through for 100 years. You can't compare the two. So, he's right about this. But then he throws in “my people.”
BECK: That's what I thought he was saying in the last one. He's saying there were -- my -- people fought and died for my people, meaning African-American. And I think that is acceptable in that context. It's not the way -- if I were African-American, it's not the way that I would hope that I would speak, but I think it is acceptable to say it that way. It's fuzzy. You agree it's fuzzy. To me, when it's fuzzy, you give the speaker the benefit of the doubt, which they never do to me, but I will give to them.
BECK: I was 90 seconds to air when I was listening to this last night because we couldn't get it all day. And I owe -- I think, personally, I owe him an apology 'cause we talked about this on the radio yesterday, didn't we? I owe him an apology for taking him and not having -- just taking the written transcript and not having the whole transcript. Now, I don't think that -- I mean, I think you could take it either way. You don't have to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has said this -- we're a nation of cowards when it comes to race, which I completely disagree with.
I think he is absolutely wrong on this thing in Philadelphia and I don't -- I believe it is something else that's going on with him on the -- and I, personally, I think it's corruption -- but there's something going on with the Black Panthers in Philadelphia, the way they are handling this case. It's wrong. Something's wrong. I think it's corruption.
But, yesterday, I said, you know, he was talking about my people -- didn't have -- couldn't listen to it. And when you listen to it, it changes. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/3/11]
Jim Hoft: “What Is He... A Black Nationalist?” In a post on his Gateway Pundit blog titled, “Eric Holder: Black Panther Case Demeans 'My People,' ” Jim Hoft asked: “What is he... A black nationalist? What about the rest of America?” Hoft went on to falsely claim that Holder “told the House Appropriations subcommittee that the New Black Panther voter intimidation case demeans 'my people.' ” [Gateway Pundit, 3/1/11]
WSJ's Taranto Claims Holder Comment “Confirms Suspicions Of Racial Bias” At DOJ. In a Wall Street Journal column titled, “Eric Holder's People,” which also bore the subhead, “The attorney general confirms suspicions of racial bias at the Justice Department,” James Taranto wrote:
It's sometimes a useful exercise to imagine situations like this one in reverse. Suppose that in the course of defending himself against accusations of bias in favor of whites, a white attorney general referred to whites as “my people.” What would we make of that?
We have to admit that, for historically contingent reasons, such a scenario would be worse. Although civil rights laws protect everyone, they were enacted to remedy brutal and systematic discrimination against blacks. Thus it is of particular importance that black Americans be able to have confidence in the impartial administration of justice.
Yet to say it is of particular importance is to draw a distinction of degree, not of kind. It is of great importance that all Americans have confidence in the impartial administration of justice. Holder understands that, at least in theory, or he would not have denied that his department enforces the law “in a race-conscious manner.” But when the attorney general spoke of “my people” and meant only a subset of Americans, it confirmed the suspicion of bias that he was trying to counter.
“Holder noted that his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, helped integrate the University of Alabama,” Politico reports. That's a legitimate point of personal pride, but in his official capacity Holder owes his allegiance to the nation as a whole. If he approaches the job with the attitude that any group smaller than all Americans is “my people,” he is the wrong man for the position. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/2/11]
BigGovernment: “Holder's Statements Are Completely Sadistic, And They Betray His Motives.” In a post on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site titled, “Whites Can't Be Victims of Racial Injustice Because They Haven't Suffered Enough,” Jonathon Burns wrote that “Holder announced Tuesday that he was fed up with listening to whining whites who claim the justice department deliberately blocks investigations of black on white racism.” Burns continued:
So the obvious takeaway from this is that some racism is worse than others. Some racist injustice is worthy of prosecution, other racism is not. Apparently, whites simply haven't suffered enough. They don't deserve legal protection. So, any injustices committed against white people should be swept under the rug. It's not worth Eric Holder's time.
One might be shocked by the statements. One might even wonder why the media chooses not to attack Holder for his patently racist statements. After all, were a white man to suggest this, his career would be over in a hail of media machine-gun fire.
The larger issue, of course, is that “whites as racists” constitutes the fundamental lens through which Holder views issues in America. During the healthcare debate, Holder likened opposition of Obamacare to opposition to civil rights. Not civil rights in the sense that, “all Americans share civil rights,” mind you, but “Civil Rights” as in the struggle for black legal equality in America during the 40's-60's. Translation: those who oppose Obamacare are racists. Such language is naked race-baiting and scapegoating. But Holder doesn't care. Whites are the bad guy bogeymen, trotted out when it gets tough to pass legislation. And his recent comments reveal his paradigm: white Americans are generally racist and any time they oppose any Obama policy or “injustice” at the hands of a racist group, they're either being racists or they're simply not entitled to equal protection because they haven't suffered as much as other groups.
Nobody is seeking to belittle the suffering of other people, here, but America seeks equality. This means equal protection under the law, not equality in historical racial suffering.
Holder's statements are completely sadistic, and they betray his motives. He has a score to settle, and by his figure whites have a lot more suffering to endure before they have a right to expect justice from the “Justice Department.” Satisfying vendettas is for Mob Bosses, not the US Attorney General's Office.
The Establishment media's silence regarding his racist statements demonstrates agreement and approval. Such hypocrisy. Such shame. Such racism. [BigGovernment, 3/2/11]
Limbaugh: Holder “Felt Offended Having To Investigate And Perhaps Level Charges Against The New Black Panther Party Because Those Are His People.” Responding to criticism that he had “injected race” into his report of Holder's comments, Rush Limbaugh stated:
LIMBAUGH: Yesterday on this program, we had a news story, a news story on which I commented. I didn't really say much, I just reported it to you. That was the story that Eric Holder felt offended having to investigate and perhaps level charges against the New Black Panther Party because those are his people. He didn't want -- they didn't want to have to do that those are the, quote, “my people.” So I report this, and I report the quote by Bartle Bull suggesting that some of this is, you know, hard to understand -- outrageous. Bartle Bull, a Democrat. And I get up today, and I get an email from somebody: “You realize you're being attacked for introducing race into this story?”
LIMBAUGH: I, El Rushbo, am being accused of introducing race once again in a very risky way into the story of Eric Holder suggesting he didn't want to go anywhere near the Black Panther story because it was -- it hurt him because those are his people. And I'm the one injecting race.
LIMBAUGH: When I just happened to mention that Eric Holder didn't want to go anywhere near the Black Panther story because they were his people, somehow, I, harmless, lovable, little fuzz ball minding my own business, bothering nobody, and accused of injecting -- once again, in a very risky -- injecting race into the story.
Meanwhile, there's -- I guess -- well, you know, what it is? The left can say and do anything. They -- in fact, the left can abort 60 percent of black babies and that's cool. Let me report it and all hell breaks loose. Eric Holder can say, “I'm not prosecuting the New Black Panthers. Those are my people.” Can you image if Edward Meese, attorney general during Reagan -- Hell, no, we're not going to go into that group. Those are my people. That's a bunch of white guys. Can you imagine what would happen? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/2/11]
Von Spakovsky Claims Holder “Considers It Insulting To His 'People' To Get Upset Over” NBPP Incident. In a post for the National Review Online blog The Corner, Hans A. von Spakovsky claimed Holder's “slip of the tongue” was “revealing,” in that it “makes it pretty clear that he is inclined to interpret situations through the prism of how they affect his 'people' -- black Americans -- and that he considers it insulting to his 'people' to get upset over” the New Black Panthers incident. From the post:
As a litigation attorney I learned that, no matter how well prepared a witness may be, he will often make revealing admissions if he becomes flustered or angry. That happened yesterday as Attorney General Eric Holder testified before a House Commerce subcommittee chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf.
At the hearing, Holder maintained that “the Department of Justice does not enforce the law on the basis of race.” But Culberson's persistent questioning about the facts of the NBPP case clearly got under Holder's skin, for he went on to say that to compare what happened in Philadelphia to what happened in the South “does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people.”
That “my people” is revealing, no? Imagine if Culberson had said the NBPP's behavior was upsetting to his people. Holder's slip of the tongue makes it pretty clear that he is inclined to interpret situations through the prism of how they affect his “people” -- black Americans -- and that he considers it insulting to his “people” to get upset over the intimidation committed by the jack-booted, paramilitary Black Panthers in Philadelphia (although Holder did admit their attempt to intimidate voters was “inappropriate”). [The Corner, 3/2/11]
Wash. Times: Holder's “Race-Based Lens Pervades His Justice Department, Causing Consistently Skewed Enforcement Of The Law.” In an editorial titled, “Holder ill serves his 'people,' ” The Washington Times argued that by “referring to blacks as his 'people,' ” Holder was “neglecting the rest of Americans.” The Times also wrote:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. played the race card in congressional testimony on Tuesday, referring to blacks as his “people” while neglecting the rest of Americans. That race-based lens pervades his Justice Department, causing consistently skewed enforcement of the law.
Mr. Holder was testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees his department's budget. Chairman Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, and Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, pressed Mr. Holder to stop giving evasive answers about scandals growing from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case.
In short, race comes first. It makes allies, not adversaries, of black criminals and prosecutors. On Tuesday, Mr. Holder again dodged questions asking him to deny that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes had told her division to prosecute only civil rights cases involving black victims, not black perpetrators. He refused to release relevant documents about the decision-making behind dropping most of the Black Panther case. For two years, Justice has pressed for explicitly race-conscious legal action.
Mr. Holder doesn't understand that while he's attorney general, his “people” are all citizens of the United States, not just black Americans. Unless he stops stonewalling on documents from the broader investigation stemming from the Black Panther case, his every action will be viewed through the racial prism he himself has chosen. [The Washington Times, 3/2/11]
IBD To Holder: “Hiding Behind The Heroic Struggles Of The Civil Rights Movement To Excuse Your Failure To Do Your Job Also Does Us A Disservice.” In its editorial about Holder's comments titled, “Eric Holder's People,” Investor's Business Daily claimed that in “defend[ing] the Justice Department's mishandling of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case,” Holder talked “in racial terms at the same time he says race had nothing to do with it.” Further claiming that "[p]ost-racial politics and color-blind justice took a hit," IBD wrote:
Holder said it was insulting to compare voter intimidation to the outright denial of the right to vote that the civil rights movement fought to overcome. To describe the New Black Panther case “in those terms,” he said, “does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people.”
My people? We are all your people, Mr. Holder, and you're sworn to uphold voting rights and equal justice under the law for all Americans. No case of voter intimidation should be considered too small to matter, and hiding behind the heroic struggles of the civil rights movement to excuse your failure to do your job also does us a disservice.
In November 2008, members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a Philadelphia polling place dressed in paramilitary garb. According to witnesses, one wielded a club while reportedly shouting racial epithets at voters.
The conduct was so egregious that the Justice Department of President George W. Bush charged the three thugs with violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. To this day, the act requires some states to jump through DOJ hoops to prove they're not discriminating against African-American voters. But the new DOJ of Eric Holder essentially dropped the Black Panther case and let the accused walk with a verbal slap on the wrist.
Protecting the voting rights of all the people is Holder's job. His failure to do so in this case is yet another reason why he should be dismissed. [Investor's Business Daily, 3/2/11]
Wash. Post's Rubin: Holder's Comment Shows “Resentment” That Civil Rights Laws Could Be “Used To Prosecute African Americans Who Intimidate Voters.” From a blog post by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin:
The House Judiciary Committee gives Attorney General Eric Holder the third degree on the New Black Panther case. And he sort of proves the critics' point by showing such resentment over the notion that civil rights laws used to protect what he calls “my people” against racism could be used to prosecute African Americans who intimidate voters. That, in the trade, is called an admission against interest. [washingtonpost.com, 3/2/11]
Facts Show DOJ Is Not Engaged In Racially Charged “Corruption”
The Claim That The Obama DOJ Is Deciding What Cases To Pursue On The Basis Of Race Doesn't Stand Up To Facts. GOP activist J. Christian Adams' underlying claim that the handling of the New Black Panther Party case was “corrupt” because it demonstrated “a hostility in the voting section and in the civil rights division to bringing cases on behalf of white victims for the benefit of national racial minorities” does not stand up to the facts:
- The Bush administration's Justice Department -- not the Obama administration -- made the decision not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation at a polling center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2008
- The Justice Department under Obama pursued the case against one of the African American defendants in the New Black Panther Party case itself. The Obama Justice Department obtained an injunction against Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center on Election Day 2008.
- The Obama Justice Department has asked a federal court to extend an injunction against black Democratic Party officials in Noxubee County, Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.
- The Bush administration DOJ chose not to pursue similar charges against members of the Minutemen, one of whom allegedly carried a weapon while harassing Hispanic voters in Arizona in 2006;
- Citing a letter by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez noting the DOJ's actions in the Noxubee case, Democratic commissioner Michael Yaki argued that the case is “perfectly consistent with what the Justice Department has been doing” and “perfectly consistent with a policy that is race-neutral.” [Media Matters, 11/5/10]
GOP Commissioner Said Investigation Into NBPP Case Is An Effort To “Topple” Obama Administration. Politico reported that Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, said that the commission's investigation into the New Black Panther Party case “doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration.” Politico also reported that Thernstrom said: “My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president.” [Politico, 7/16/10]
New Black Panther Party Case Allegations Were Brought By Long-Time GOP Activist. Adams is the originator of the claim that the Obama Justice Department was motivated by race to narrow its case against members of the New Black Panther Party, who were accused of intimidating voters in 2008. Adams is a long-time Republican and conservative activist. He has likened Obama to the appeasers who caused the “carnage” of World War II. He has reportedly volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association, which “trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights,” according to a December 2009 Main Justice article. He also reportedly served as a Bush campaign poll watcher in Florida and once filed an ethics complaint against Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, that was subsequently dismissed. [Media Matters, 7/19/10]
- Chris Coates, the other DOJ employee who has pushed these allegations, was described by Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman, who politicized the Justice Department, as a “true member of the team,” and, according to reports, became very conservative during his time working for the Voting Rights Section. [Media Matters, 9/23/10]
Adams Hired By DOJ Official Found To Have Illegally Used Political Reasons In Hiring Decisions. Adams was hired as a Justice Department lawyer by Schlozman. A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman “considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys in violation of Department policy and federal law.” Former Voting Section chief Joseph Rich reportedly called Adams “exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman.” Coates has identified Adams as the kind of lawyer he wanted to hire at the Justice Department. [Media Matters, 11/5/10]
Holder: DOJ “Enforces All Of The Laws Without Regard To The Race, Ethnicity, Or Political Persuasion.” During the hearing in which he referred to “my people,” Holder also affirmed DOJ's commitment to enforcing all laws without regard to race or ethnicity:
HOLDER: I want to assure you and the American people that the Justice Department under my leadership and as part of the Obama administration, enforces all of the laws without regard to the race, ethnicity, or political persuasion of anybody who might be involved in a particular matter. The Civil Rights Division under my leadership, under Tom Perez's leadership, I think has done a good job in making determinations about how it uses its resource allocations, but those allocations are not made on the basis of the race of the complainant, the ethnicity of the complainant, the political persuasion of the complainant.
HOLDER: And I just want to assure again the American people that the allegations that somehow, someway, this Justice Department does things on the basis of race is simply false. It is simply false. Anybody who makes that contention is not telling the truth, is not familiar with the facts, or has a political agenda. It is simply not true. [House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, 3/1/11]