On taxpayer-funded PBS, reporters have a difficult time using words like "terrorist" to describe politically motivated bombers – even when Democratic officials have no problem using the term. On Thursday night’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, describing controversial Clinton administration pardons, PBS’s Ray Suarez identified the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN as merely a "separatist organization," even though in the soundbite that followed, Attorney General nominee Eric Holder clearly described the FALN as terrorists:
RAY SUAREZ: Holder was also questioned about his role in President Clinton's decision to grant clemency to 16 members of the Puerto Rican separatist organization FALN. The group was involved in a deadly campaign of bombings and robberies in the 1970s and '80s.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-Ala.: Do you believe that the decision and ultimate act of President Clinton to pardon these individuals was wrong?
HOLDER: I think it's a difficult decision that the president had. When one looks at the nature of the offenses that put those people in jail, these were criminals. These were terrorists. These were bad people. But the president's determination was that they had not committed any acts themselves that resulted in death or bodily injury.
And on that basis, and given the amount of time that they had served in jail -- roughly 16 to 19 years, most, I think, 19 years -- and given the length of the sentences that they -- they had received, it was his determination that the clemency requests were appropriate, taking all that into consideration.
Why can’t PBS call a terrorist a terrorist? Is al-Qaeda merely an "anti-Israeli organization"? From 1974 to 1983, the FALN staged some 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States, killing six and wounding dozens.
Suarez next interviewed a liberal and a conservative on the Holder testimony: John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who kept calling Holder "spectacular," and Robert Alt of the Heritage Foundation, who was very strong in condemning the Clinton terrorist pardons:
SUAREZ: Did he satisfy you in the way he answered those questions?
ROBERT ALT: Well, I have to say, particularly with regard to the FALN terrorism case, he did not.
With Marc Rich, his pardon, he at least took responsibility for it being a mistake. And, yet, when it dime the FALN case, he -- he referred to that decision as reasonable. I just don't see how he could say that.
He violated virtually every DOJ protocol in releasing -- let's be quite clear about how dangerous these individuals were. Two of them refused the deal because they would not renounce future violence against the United States. They didn't ask for clemency.
And, yet, he instructed the pardon attorneys to go and procure from them contrition in order to support the document, which is ultimately what Clinton relied upon in issuing the clemency. This clemency should never have been given. And there is -- was no clear reason, other than potential politics, for doing so.
To call it a lapse of judgment, when you have -- you have got an organization identified as one of the leading domestic terrorism organizations in the United States, is an understatement.