J. Christian Adams, founder of the McLean, Virginia-based Election Law
Center and frequent conservative media talking head, is coming to Newport Beach Wednesday to perpetuate something that has been labeled a right-wing fantasy: that New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense members intimidated Philadelphia voters in the 2008 election that resulted in Barack Obama winning the presidency.
The tall tale tars the incident as evidence of a national conspiracy to put a Kenyan in the White House. Adams, who quit his Department of Justice (DOJ) Voting Section post after his bosses scaled back the case for lack of evidence, has joined Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and newly empowered Republican politicians in keeping the controversy on life support.
Riding into town clutching the reins of a white steed in one hand and a bio trumpeting his being the first to use the
Voting Rights Act to “protect a discriminated against white
minority” in the other, Adams speaks on “The U.S. Justice Department and the Black Panther Voiting Rights Controversy” at Wednesday's noon meeting of the Newport Harbor Bar Association at the Radisson Hotel on MacArthur Boulevard. He reasons his ex-DOJ overlords are now engaged in a massive cover-up to hide their own tendencies to keep the white man down.
Background: New Black Panther Party members Jerry Jackson and “Minister King” Samir Shabazz, toting a billy club and wearing a paramilitary outfit like his partner, stood outside a Philadelphia polling station that Election Day morning. They reportedly yelled racial slurs at voters that included the phrases “white devil” and “You're about to
be ruled by the black man, cracker.” Ah, the classics never die.
Around 10 a.m., Philly police officers shooed Shabazz away but allowed Jackson to stay because he was a certified poll watcher. A John McCain campaign videographer turned footage of the spectacle over to ElectionJournal.org, which posted it on YouTube.
Naturally, Limbaugh, Fox News and the usual suspects went ape-shit. This led to formal DOJ charges against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Shabazz and Jackson. But, the DOJ later dropped Jackson and his party from the case, only pressing reduced charges against Shabazz.
Naturally, Limbaugh, Fox News and the usual suspects went ape-shittier. The Eric Holder (black)-led DOJ and Barack Obama (kinda black)-led White House were accused of being biased against whitey and unwilling to prosecute minorities for civil rights violations. Adams resigned from the DOJ in May 2010 and has been trying to “ACORN” Eric Holder with his Philly cheeseballs ever since.
But, here's the deal: The DOJ started and dropped a criminal investigation of the incident during the Bush administration. The department's civil rights division then filed a civil suit against Shabazz, Jackson, the party and party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz two weeks before Dubya moseyed into the Texas sunset. Adams was among the four career attorneys who signed the memo that supported the civil case.
The defendants failed to appear in court, and Adams and his cohorts figured their bosses would file for a judgment win by default. But their superiors decided instead to drop everyone from the complaint except Shabazz, whose charge was narrowed from an injunction prohibiting acts of intimidation anywhere in the United States to one forbidding him from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of a Philadelphia polling place for the next three years.
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, which is composed largely of Bush appointees, compared that move to Southern Klansmen burying black and Jewish civil rights workers in the 1960s. But at the panel's subsequent hearings, the DOJ's Thomas Perez justified narrowing the charges for a simple reason: No one ever filed a complaint of being intimidated from voting in Philadelphia–anywhere, including that particular polling place.
Guys like Adams claimed a huge conspiracy because, they alleged, the New Black Panther Party deployed 300 poll watchers across the United States. That was batted away for another simple reason: No one filed a complaint of being intimidated at any polling places across the country by Panthers, and no one even reported a single incident similar to what happened for a couple hours that morning in Philly.
Indeed, Zulu Shabazz and his New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense condemned the actions of Samir Shabazz and suspended the city's chapter.
Meanwhile, Adams' DOJ superiors who decided to severely narrow the case? Loretta King and Steven Rosenbaum had worked there for 30 years, through the presidencies of Bush I and II. Even Adams has to fess up to the Bush-loaded Civil Rights Commission that he did not know of anyone above King and Rosenbaum having been involved in the decision to narrow the case.
Despite the facts showing no intimidation took place, the Civil Rights Commission has continued demanding answers. The panel has since expanded its inquiry to focus on DOJ mistreatment of white folk. A report the panel issued in December concluded its own probes uncovered “numerous specific
examples of open hostility and opposition” within the DOJ in pursuing cases in which whites were the victims. Holder was also word-whipped for his handling of the New Black Panther Party non-case case.
But Abigail Thernstrom, the commission's conservative vice chairwoman, has been critical of her colleagues, saying “the evidence is extremely weak” that the DOJ hates white people. She's also characterized the Philly case as “very small potatoes.” Thernstrom wrote in National Review, “There are plenty of grounds on which
to sharply criticize the attorney general–his handling of terrorism
questions, just for starters–but this particular overblown attack
threatens to undermine the credibility of his conservative critics.”
Linda Chavez, who was the highest-ranking woman in Ronald Reagan's White House and the first Latina appointed to a Cabinet position, has also characterized the Philly case as minor. Now a Fox News analyst, Chavez recognized the story has staying power thanks to images of black thugs outside a polling place.
Indeed, the conservative media has continued to press the case while simultaneously blasting the Liberal Lamestream Media for ignoring it. That has prompted the Weekly's old pal Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense as a hate group, to describe the right-sided media's
overblown coverage as a “tempest in a teacup.”
Yes, but the teabags keep steeping in it, and now that Republicans have taken control of the House, Congressional investigations into the Philly case are promised. On March 9, the conservative Judicial Watch kept hope alive by filing suit demanding all DOJ files on the matter. You can see their star witness in Newport Beach Wednesday.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.