Fox Business host Lou Dobbs on Monday promoted the conspiracy theory that the Department of Justice somehow organized protests over the killing of Trayvon Martin, joining with some in right-wing media who claim Attorney General Eric Holder is a radical racist.
Summarizing Holder’s comments on the Zimmerman verdict, Dobbs said the nation’s first black U.S. attorney general was instead “sounding like a state attorney general from the Jim Crow era.” He added that the Department of Justice was “actively involved in fomenting anti-Zimmerman protests in Sanford, Florida last year.”
He went on to insist that “thousands” of taxpayer dollars were spent to train the initial crop of people who were only pretending to be mad about Martin’s death. Dobbs also seems to think Floridians needed some kind of special training to organize protests over Martin’s death.
Dobbs added that he’s not sure, but some of the money may have gone to MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton, who he accused of embarking on a nation-wide tour to “raise racial tensions.” He concluded: “We don’t know whether that Sharpton effort is being financed as well by the Justice Department. We have asked the Justice Department and we are waiting for their answer.”
Dobbs appears to be inspired by report published by right-wing watchdog group Judicial Watch, which claimed on July 10 that it had proof that the DOJ was involved in the protests over Martin’s death. “These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton explained in an advisory. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”
However, as PolitiFact pointed out last week, the City of Sanford requested DOJ assistance in mediating the situation as civil unrest peaked following Martin’s death. Thomas Battles, longtime mediator with decades of experience dealing with inflammatory racial, was dispatched from the DOJ’s Comunity Relations Service and soon found himself in Florida working to keep the peace.
“There was so much angst and fear of the unknown,” Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett told The Miami Herald. “We had never been through something like this before. We didn’t know what was going to happen and if this thing was going to blow. Mr. Battles has a calming way about him. He was a voice of reason. He got everybody to the table.”
Claims that the DOJ’s leadership in community mediation was scandal-worthy spread to right-wing media outlets like Breitbart, Hot Air, The Daily Caller and Fox News. However, such claims were also debunked by, of all people, Fox News reporter Jake Gibson in a July 10 report. In interviews with DOJ officials, Gibson discovered what the DOJ’s Community Relations Service has been doing for the last 49 years: Mediating conflicts in hopes of “reducing tensions and the potential for violence.”
“I have a piece at Breitbart [...] that shows how the New Black Panthers were the spark behind the whole Zimmerman investigation,” he said on Monday. “This is part of a radical, racial agenda that Eric Holder has implemented since he took office.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 5 million unique readers per month and serves more than 19 million pageviews.