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Bush ally: Black Panther story a ‘fantasy’ to ‘topple Obama’

By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Sunday, July 18, 2010 13:16 EDT
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A Bush administration civil rights appointee says the conservative media uproar over allegations the Justice Department is protecting the New Black Panther Party from voter-intimidation prosecution is a “fantasy” designed to oust Attorney General Eric Holder and harm the Obama administration.

“This 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,” Abigail Thernstrom, former vice chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, told Politico.

“My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president,” Thernstrom said.

Thernstrom’s views on this issue line up with many voices in the progressive media, who argue the claims that the Justice Department is showing pro-African American racial bias are illegitimate.

Blogger Karoli at Crooks and Liars notes that Thernstrom has been known for her otherwise socially conservative views, including opposition to affirmative action.

Politico describes the facts of the Black Panther controversy like this:

Two men were captured on a video standing outside a polling place in a black Philadelphia neighborhood on Election Day in 2008. One of the men had a nightstick, if an unclear agenda — though a member of the black nationalist New Black Panther Party, he had earlier professed loathing for the Democratic “puppet” candidate, Barack Obama, who went on to overwhelmingly carry that precinct.

Three Republican poll monitors filed complaints of intimidation — itself a federal crime — but no voters attested to being turned away. The Justice Department, while Bush was still president, investigated the incident and later, after Obama took office, decided that “the facts and the law did not support pursuing” the claims against the party and against a second, unarmed man, Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.

Thernstrom’s comments came as the NAACP sought to distance itself from the controversy over the New Black Panthers, which has been getting considerable attention at Fox News and other conservative news sources. On Sunday, NAACP President Ben Jealous “absolutely condemned” the New Black Panthers during a debate with Tea Party 365 co-founder David Webb.

Webb confronted Jealous about the New Black Panther Party Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. “I have a serious objection with is his selective condemnation of racism when he will not condemn the New Black Panther Party for saying that they want to kill crackers and kill cracker babies, whereas he would condemn the KKK or any element that shows up in and claims that they are a part of the Tea Party,” he said.

“The reality here is that the New Black Panther Party is like 12 people, 13 people,” responded Jealous. “They don’t say these things at the NAACP. If they did, we would take them on.”

“I said three times on a show with you last week so hear me this time. You know, bigots come in all colors. We absolutely denounce the New Black Panther Party. But they aren’t in our group. These folks are in your groups,” said Jealous.

On Tuesday, the NAACP voted to approve a resolution calling for the Tea Party to repudiate racist elements within their movement.

Since then, the nation’s oldest civil rights group has been criticized for ignoring the racism exhibited by a small group called the New Black Panther Party. Conservative outlets like Fox News have pointed to a video where a member of the New Black Panther Party called for African-Americans to “kill cracker babies.”

This video is from CBS’ Face the Nation, broadcast July 18, 2010.


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