In recent weeks, Fox News Channel has repeatedly updated viewers on the controversy behind the Obama administration Justice Department’s decision to drop civil action initiated during the Bush administration against New Black Panthers (NBP) members who were caught on video engaging in voter intimidation outside a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008. Even though DOJ won cases against three defendants by default when the NBP members refused to appear in court, punishment for two members was not pursued at all while the injunction against the third member was reduced to two years during which he can still visit polling stations in nearly all of country as long as it is outside Philadelphia.
But on Monday’s Countdown show, as he erroneously assumed that the FNC stories were based on the issue of criminal prosecution, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann absurdly claimed that FNC’s entire premise for its coverage had been debunked as he picked up on reports by the left-wing American Prospect magazine which recounted the Bush-era Justice Department decision not to pursue criminal charges.
Olbermann referred to FNC’s pursuit of the New Black Panther voter intimidation story as a "continuous fake ‘newsgasm’ over there at Fox, drumming up paranoia among their more racist viewers." The Countdown host proclaimed: "There is, as it proves, one huge flaw in this latest Fox-driven conspiracy. The decision not to prosecute was not made by Obama, nor the Obama administration, nor the Attorney General, Mr. Holder. It was made during the administration of President George W. Bush."
On Tuesday’s Countdown show, in response to a question on Twitter as to why Olbermann was defending the New Black Panthers, the MSNBC host claimed not to be defending the NBP, and went on to dismiss the group, contending that "the New Black Panthers, all three of them, pose only slightly more of a risk to anyone than does spontaneous human combustion." On Wednesday’s show, as Olbermann updated a "Worst Person" attack on conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh first featured on Tuesday regarding tongue-in-cheek comments Limbaugh had made about George Steinbrenner in which Limbaugh referred to the infamous racism of one of the New Black Panther defendants, Olbermann again dismissed the National Black Panthers: "America is at far greater risk from the New Christy Minstrels."
The MSNBC host went on to compare Limbaugh to the racist group: "And if we`re supposed to report on every impotent idiot who says hateful, racist things, all news broadcasts everywhere would be entirely about Rush Limbaugh," and charged, "But only the gullible and the diseased listen to your show."
As for Olbermann’s flawed premise regarding the subject of FNC coverage of the NBP case, FNC reports did not claim that it was the Obama administration that chose not to pursue criminal action against the group. On the December 10, 2009, The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly and FNC legal analyst Megyn Kelly explicitly stated that the legal action was a civil, rather than criminal matter:
BILL O'REILLY: So they could have prosecuted these guys just for not showing up because they were compelled to do so?
MEGYN KELLY: They always, it's not a prosecution, exactly, but it's a civil action against them.
KELLY: They were blowing it off.
O'REILLY: But it is the prosecution, civil.
KELLY: It is essentially.
O'REILLY: Right, right.
KELLY: And they could have gotten all sorts of fines and penalties. Now nothing because they've walked away.
On the June 30 Special Report with Bret Baier, FNC’s Carl Cameron recounted: "Complaints were filed, an investigation launched. But after the Obama administration took over and the Panthers failed to appear in court, one suspect with a nightstick was slapped with an injunction to stay away from the polls, but the rest of the case against others was dropped."
On the June 30 Hannity show, Megyn Kelly recounted: "They had a victory. The case was won, Sean. It was only about punishment at that point." She soon added: "And they wanted it originally, an injunction against him, to stop him from doing this ever again. Instead what the DOJ got for that guy with the baton was just a couple of years and only in Philadelphia. Okay. With the rest of the defendants they all got dropped."
On the July 1 The O’Reilly Factor, Megyn Kelly explained that DOJ had won the civil case by default when the defendants failed to show up in court, and at that point just need to pursue punishment: "They won it. All the judge said to them was, ‘Just tell me what you want for the sentence.’ And it was at that point that the political appointees, meaning the people put in place by President Obama, by Eric Holder, came in and said drop the case."
On the July 7 Hannity show, guest Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice clearly stated that the legal action the Obama administration failed to follow up on was a civil rather than criminal matter: "But the fact of the matter is, the Bush administration was being kind in putting a civil rights suit, voting rights infringement suit here which is civil piece of litigation against the two individuals involved. But the fact of the matter is, if it was anybody else running a Justice Department and did it correctly they would have made sure that it was, at minimum, an indictment and certainly civil prosecution. But what you've got here is, and this is what's key, you've got former Justice Department officials saying that they were turning an eye to this. They were turning a blind eye to it as if it didn't happen."
On the July 8 The O’Reilly Factor, Megyn Kelly pointed out that the injunction against the one NBP member was downgraded: "The DOJ wants to point out that it did get an injunction against him. Let me tell what you that injunction was. They had won an injunction barring him from going to any polling station with that billy club essentially any place. Then they downgraded it. After they won that, they downgraded it just till 2012. So if you're any place outside of Philly, he could be showing up at your polling station."
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of MSNBC’s Countdown show from Monday, July 12, through Wednesday, July 14:
#From July 14:
KEITH OLBERMANN: But our winner, Rush Limbaugh, again. This is what he said yesterday.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: George Steinbrenner has passed away at age 80. That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires. George Steinbrenner, the classic capitalist. Everybody around him became wealthy. Like most successful capitalists, he made the people around him wealthy, and a lot of African-American millionaires along the way. And at the same time, he fired a bunch of white guys as managers, left and right.
OLBERMANN: After Americans of all political stripes blanched at his inhuman timing, let alone his point, the truly offended party was, of course, Limbaugh. He e-mailed Michael Calderon of Yahoo News. I`ll respond and translate as necessary. "The only thing I can remember the media and the left ever saying about Steinbrenner was that he was an evil, temperamental dictator who made illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and consorted with hoodlums."
Your memory loss, sir, should not be mistaken for a record of actual events.
"This is my stock and trade." Oh, oh, what`s he going to stay next, his stock and trade, slander, libel, racism, sexism, degradation of the human spirit, Viagra?
"This is my stock in trade -- illustrating the absurd by being absurd. Two weeks ago, a DOJ whistle blower revealed that the Obama-Holder Department of Justice ordered line attorneys to drop a 2008 voter intimidation case against the new Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. The line attorney, J. Christian Adams, said the case was a slam dunk, and we knew it was. There was video evidence."
J. Christian Adams is not a whistle blower. He’s a veteran right-wing political activist and hack. And the suit was downgraded from criminal to civil on January 7, 2009, by the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush.
"In the past two weeks, the president of the NBPP, Malik Zulu Shabazz, has been in the media attacking white crackers. One of the NBPP members from the Philly incident, King Samir Shabazz, appeared at a rally and suggested that blacks would only be free when all the crackers were dead and further said that killing cracker babies was called for. No one in what is called the mainstream media has condemned or even reported any of this, though it has been all over Fox News and talk radio and many Internet blogs."
This is probably because the New Black Panther party apparently consists of three guys. America is at far greater risk from the New Christy Minstrels. And if we`re supposed to report on every impotent idiot who says hateful, racist things, all news broadcasts everywhere would be entirely about Rush Limbaugh.
So, he continued, "George Steinbrenner dies, and I being absurd to illustrate absurdity make my comments pointing out that this cracker created many African-American millionaires and fired a bunch of white managers to establish his cred." A quick bit of research suggests that before 1995, when the average baseball salary crossed a million dollars, that made them all millionaires, Steinbrenner created millionaires out of 28 of his players, maybe 27. Only seven of them were African-Americans.
"Simple to understand and even appreciate, if, if, if, one listens to my show. Media Matters for America doesn`t listen, but they purposely distort the things I say and the reporters who then quote MM and do not ever listen to my show, print the erroneous take." But only the gullible and the diseased listen to your show. And what you call the erroneous take sane people call the diagnosis.
I hesitate to do this again, because while I`m sure he`s the worst, I`m not confident he`s still human. Rush Limbaugh, today`s "Worst Person in the World."
#From July 13:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Rush Limbaugh makes a race-baiting joke at the expense of the newly-dead George Steinbrenner. First the tweet-of-the-day from a Jeff in Atlanta.
"I wonder why Keith Olbermann defends the New Black Panthers. Guy, you are as pale as I am. They hate u and want your butt dead too."
I don`t defend them. However, I think the New Black Panthers, all three of them, pose only slightly more of a risk to anyone than does spontaneous human combustion. Come back to this planet, Jeff.
But our winner, Rush Limbaugh. This speaks eloquently and sadly for itself.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: George Steinbrenner has passed away at age 80. That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires. George Steinbrenner, the classic capitalist. Everybody around him became wealthy. And like most successful capitalists, he made the people around him wealthy, and a lot of African-American millionaires along the way. And at the same time, he fired a bunch of white guys as managers, left and right.
OLBERMANN: There is a time and a place for everything. And Rush Limbaugh knows neither. Rush Limbaugh, today`s "Worst Person in the World."
#From July 12:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: The New Black Panther Party, an old story
Fox News whips up paranoia claiming an Obama racist plot to dismiss criminal charges against harrassers at a polling place, except it now turns out the criminal charges were dismissed before Obama was President.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:16 P.M.: The shocker from Consumer Reports, they were wrong. The new iPhone does have an antenna problem, but they also say they have a way for you to fix yours, which is words you`ll never hear from "Fox Noise," even after news today that their phony New Black Panther party story is just that, a phony. Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:25 P.M.: The remarkable fact that just disproved the big Black Panther conspiracy story consuming Fox News. That buffoon O`Reilly is talking about it as we speak, despite the startling revelation that the decision not to make a criminal case out of some election-time harassment was not made by the Obama administration, ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:40 P.M.: Apple gets slapped around for antenna flaws in the new iPhone. Apple says it`s not the antenna, it`s the signal strength indicator. Consumer Reports says no, it`s the antenna, but we can help you fix yours at home.
Would that there was a similar solution for Fox News. The New Black Panther Party saga, seemingly like all sequels, bad acting, transparent fiction, and, we learn today, huge holes in the plot line.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the other right-wing nutjob conspiracy lives on. Congressman Paul Brown and others insisting the Obama administration wanted the leak and it was an inside job. There’s some oil on your tinfoil.
OLBERMANN: First, no, this is not your water coming to a boil, it`s our nightly checkup on the something for nothing crowd. It`s Tea Time. If you`ve not noticed, they`ve been having one long continuous fake "newsgasm" over there at Fox, drumming up paranoia among their more racist viewers, by covering 24/7 something they call the New Black Panthers case. The allegation being pushed like grease through the very willing Fox News viewing geese is that a couple of New Black Panthers threatened voters at a polling station in Philadelphia on election day, 2008. and that one of the guys was caught on video, and another time shouting inanities about killing, quote, "cracker babies," but that voter intimidation charges were dropped by Attorney General Holder and President Obama, and, thus, they are about to murder all of us in our beds.
Got it? New Black Panthers intimidating voters, killing "cracker babies," Obama didn`t prosecute. There is, as it proves, one huge flaw in this latest Fox-driven conspiracy. The decision not to prosecute was not made by Obama, nor the Obama administration, nor the Attorney General, Mr. Holder. It was made during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Adam Serwer of the American Prospect found the smoking gun in the testimony last May of the head of the Justice Department`s Civil Rights Division. Thomas Perez was talking about this New Black Panthers nonsense to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in May, and he said this: "After reviewing the matter, the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statutes. The Department did, however, file a civil action on January 7, 2009, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under 11b against four defendants.".
January 7, nearly two weeks before Obama took office, nearly a month before Holder was confirmed, nearly three months before the Fox News main target in this, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, was confirmed. There`s also a deputy assistant attorney general whom Fox claims ordered that no lawsuit against the black or other national minority ever be brought. Unfortunately for the conspiracy fantasy, she didn`t even get to the Justice Department until the end of June, five months after criminal prosecution was dropped.
So here`s the real story Fox and the other malefactors of mankind will not tell you, based not on rumor nor innuendo, but court and congressional records. New Black Panthers, intimidating voters, killing "cracker babies," Bush didn`t prosecute.