FNC's Pinkerton Corrects FNC Panelists Huckabee Did Not Commute After Child Rape Conviction

On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, as the panel discussed media coverage of former Republican Governor – and current FNC host – Mike Huckabee’s involvement in commuting the prison sentence of Maurice Clemmons – who would later go on to murder four police officers in Washington state – panel members at first left the impression that Huckabee had commuted Clemmons's sentence after his child rape conviction. (Credit to NewsBusters reader Dana Christianson for emailing in a tip on the matter.) Conservative panelist Jim Pinkerton of New America Foundation had to point out that Huckabee commuted the sentence at a time when Clemmons serving time for the non-violent crime of committing burglary – which he did in 1989 while he was under age 18. Pinkerton even had to directly correct liberal FNC analyst Kirsten Powers, who seemed to convey that she thought Huckabee had commuted the sentence after the child rape conviction:

JIM PINKERTON, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: The kid was 17 years old and convicted of nonviolent – not – without a gun burglary and sentenced to 108 years. I think most people would see that as excessive. The real scandal is that he had at least three brushes with the law since the year 2000, and nobody then ever chose to revoke his clemency. That wasn't Mike Huckabee's fault. That was other people.

KIRSTEN POWERS, FNC ANALYST: What about the child rape?

PINKERTON: That was in Washington state.

In fact, as recounted on Monday's The O'Reilly Factor on FNC (see below), it was nine year sgo in 2000 that Huckabee commuted Clemmons's sentence for burglary from 108 years to 47 years, making him eligible for parole. Clemmons was only  just charged with child rape last July.

Host Jon Scott contributed to the confusion as he set up the discussion without clearly identifying which crimes Clemmons had already been convicted of at the time Huckabee facilitated his release from prison in Arkansas. Scott: "The apparent killer an Arkansas man named Maurice Clemmons who had just gotten out of prison on bail, despite multiple criminal charges ranging from child rape to assault. Clemmons moved to Washington state from Arkansas. While in Arkansas he was granted clemency as a teenager for the crimes he committed by then-Governor Mike Huckabee."

Before Pinkerton clarified for viewers what Huckabee’s role actually was, panelists Rich Lowry of the National Review and Kristen Powers both expressed the view that Huckabee was "fair game":

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think he's legitimately fair game. Any governor who granted clemency to a guy who goes out and shoots four cops is going to be a big story. So I don't see bias playing into this in any way. It's a totally legitimate issue, and it’s being discussed the way it should be.

JON SCOTT: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FNC ANALYST: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I also happen to believe that people who are convicted of child rape should never get out of jail in the first place, so I kind of questioned, you know, why this happened in the first place, and that's what people should be talking about, is-

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Saturday, December 5, Fox News Watch on FNC, followed by a transcript of the Monday, November 30, The O'Reilly Factor segment with Huckabee:

#From the December 5 Fox News Watch:

JON SCOTT: All right, here’s another story we've been following this week. Four police officers from Lakewood, Washington, were gunned down in a diner. The apparent killer an Arkansas man named Maurice Clemmons who had just gotten out of prison on bail, despite multiple criminal charges ranging from child rape to assault. Clemmons moved to Washington state from Arkansas. While in Arkansas he was granted clemency as a teenager for the crimes he committed by then-Governor Mike Huckabee. As the story unfolded, the New York Times quickly switched its focus to the Governor, asking if this was his Willie Horton moment. I guess, Rich, let me get your take on that. The Willie Horton thing, most in the media said, was an abuse of – I don’t know – advertising that kind of thing, political advertising. And yet now, I guess Huckabee is fair game?

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yeah, I think he's legitimately fair game. Any governor who granted clemency to a guy who goes out and shoots four cops is going to be a big story. So I don't see bias playing into this in any way. It's a totally legitimate issue, and it’s being discussed the way it should be.

SCOTT: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FNC ANALYST: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I also happen to believe that people who are convicted of child rape should never get out of jail in the first place, so I kind of questioned, you know, why this happened in the first place, and that's what people should be talking about, is-

SCOTT: Is that the question the media should be asking, Jim?

JIM PINKERTON, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I mean, I think, look, the kid was 17 years old and convicted of nonviolent – not – without a gun burglary and sentenced to 108 years. I think most people would see that as excessive. The real scandal is that he had at least three brushes with the law since the year 2000, and nobody then ever chose to revoke his clemency. That wasn't Mike Huckabee's fault. That was other people.

POWERS: What about the child rape?

PINKERTON: That was in Washington state.

JUDITH MILLER, FNC ANALYST: I found it interesting that it was the conservative media that was much harder on Huckabee than the liberal media.

#From the November 30 The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY: "Factor Investigation" segment tonight. Washington state authorities say 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked into a cafe and shot four police officers dead on Sunday. The man had been charged with assaulting a police officer in May. In July, he was charged with raping and molesting a 12-year-old female girl, a relative. But just a week ago, this guy was released on $15,000 bail, and incredibly low number for the kind of crimes he is accused of. Altogether, he had a total of eight felony charges pending against him. But Judge John McCarthy set the bail, and Judge Thomas Finagle signed off on the bail and let him out. We contacted the judges, but they did not return our phone calls, which is not very smart. They will be held accountable. In addition, Clemmons was incarcerated in Arkansas for burglary and theft, sentenced to 60 years. But then-Governor Mike Huckabee commuted the criminal sentence in the year 2000. Mr. Huckabee, now a Fox News analyst, joins from us Little Rock. Thanks for being a stand-up guy, Governor. A lot of people want an explanation. This is a bad hombre, and you let him out. Why?

MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, Bill, first of all, I think the tragedy of this, if I could have known nine years ago this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously, I would never have granted the commutation. It's sickening. The two people in this country that I value the most are soldiers and police officers, because they're the only thing standing between our freedom and total anarchy. And in the case of this particular individual, he was sentenced to 108 years for two crimes when he was 16. The post-prison transfer board, the process, and I'll be very brief about this, but to understand they recommended to me as governor for his commutation, which didn't release him, it simply cut his sentence to 47 years. That would give him parole eligibility. That was the commutation. I'm responsible for that, and it's not something I'm happy about this at this particular moment, in light of that.

O'REILLY: Now, did you study it? Did you study it? I mean, look, governors have a lot of this stuff.

HUCKABEE: Yes.

O'REILLY: Did you study this guy? Did you spend a lot of time on it, or did you just take the advice of your advisors?

HUCKABEE: No, I look at every case file, and I had about 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand. Ninety-two percent of the time they were denied. But in this case, the judge in the case was also recommending and the parole board on a 5-0 vote, because at the age of 16, the sentence he got for the crimes he committed back in 1989 was excessive for anything else that was donein Arkansas.

O'REILLY: Okay, but he was a bad guy in prison, and the prosecutors told you, so they say, "Hey, this is a hard-core guy. This isn't some kid who went wrong."

HUCKABEE: We didn't have any information from the prosecutors. We sent notices, which is the practice in Arkansas, to five different people: the attorney general, secretary of state, the prosecutor, the judge, and law enforcement. The only official that we have record of getting notification from was the judge who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board. So that's what we acted upon, what I acted upon. I'm responsible for that. And, you know, my heart is broken for four families tonight.

O'REILLY: Well, it's not your fault, Governor. I mean, look, youe got 1,200 of these cases a year. You got to look at them. I'm not saying it's your fault. I don't think anybody watching thinks it's your fault. But the judges in Washington state, come on. I mean, this guy moves from your state, Arkansas, to Washington state, and then he racks up eight felony charges. Eight felonies, including the rape of a 12-year-old.

HUCKABEE: That's inexcusable, Bill.

O'REILLY: And these clowns, these judges give him a $15,000 walk, which he makes through a bail bondsman. And then they don't even return our calls to say, like you are right now, "Here's why we did it." I mean, this is insane. When you have a guy like that, a rape charge against a 12-year-old, and you let the guy out on $15,000? There's no excuse on Earth for that, Governor. Would you agree?

HUCKABEE: I would totally agree, Bill. And one of the things that's sad is that, after this guy was commuted, that just made him parole-eligible. Then he qualified for parole and was paroled. But he violated his parole in Arkansas and was put back in prison. Now, here's the real tragedy. The prosecutors failed to file the paperwork in a timely way, and so they had to drop the charges. That's what released him the second time.

O'REILLY: And then he got back out again.

HUCKABEE: Then he went to Washington.

O'REILLY: But the judges in Washington state, they knew all of his history from age 16 onward.

HUCKABEE: Yeah, but this point, this guy is a career criminal-

O'REILLY: Right, he's a career criminal.

HUCKABEE: -with escalating sense of violence and psychotic behavior. And, no, there's no explanation for why he was out on the streets.

O'REILLY: Okay, now, let me ask you this. Most judges who do this kind of stuff, in our experience, and you've followed the program. You know, Jessica's Law, and we hold the judges accountable. They won't explain why they do what they do. They hide behind some kind of statute or this and that. I just think that's terrible. Be like you, be a stand-up person. Come on in and say, "This is why I did what I did." Am I wrong?

HUCKABEE: No. I think it's important that people understand the process and the reasoning behind decisions. Sometimes it's difficult and it's complicated. But, for the most part, people, I think, can understand that you are acting on what you know, not on what might happen out there in the future. In this case, with Washington judges certainly, there was a pretty good long history of adult behavior on this guy.

O'REILLY: You bet. And two judges, two judges signed off on this crazy bail. Governor, thanks very much for being a stand-up guy. As I said, we appreciate it.

Crime Fox News Channel Fox News Watch Jon Scott Kirsten Powers Rich Lowry Mike Huckabee


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