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Obama’s Hate Crime Double Standard

There is no place for exceptions based on friendship or politics when it comes to fighting hate.

by
Eric Eversole

Bio

June 28, 2009 - 12:00 am

In the wake of the horrific shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the country’s voice has been united in condemning such cowardly acts of hatred. The shooting, as stated by the national director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “is a very sad and tragic event which reminds us, as the Museum itself does every day, in the starkest way, where the spread of hatred can lead.” President Obama rightly added, “[w]e must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”

Unfortunately, the president must possess a different meaning of “vigilance” and “all its forms” than most Americans do.

Take, for example, the president’s recent failure to denounce the anti-Semitic rant by his long-term spiritual advisor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. On the day before the shooting, a reporter in Hampton Roads, Virginia, recorded Reverend Wright making numerous anti-Semitic comments, including attacks on the president’s closest advisors, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. Reverend Wright blamed “them Jews” for not letting President Obama speak with him. He further asserted that President Obama had compromised his beliefs and the “fiber of his being” for the “Jewish vote” and Jewish lobbying groups.

Hate speech groups immediately denounced Reverend Wright’s remarks. The director for the Chicago chapter of the ADL said that Reverend Wright’s remarks were “classic anti-Semitism in its most vile form.” Likewise, the associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said, “Yesterday’s events at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum demonstrate that hateful speech can spiral into tragedy and thus cannot go unanswered. Words have consequences, and Reverend Wright has contributed to a dangerous culture of anti-Semitism.”

Yet, when the White House was asked to comment on Reverend Wright’s remarks — on the same day President Obama asked for vigilance — the president gave no comment or denunciation.

Does vigilance not apply to the president’s long-term spiritual advisor? Are his words any less inflammatory or dangerous than the hate-filled words of the neo-Nazi killer? The president’s silence is deafening.

President Obama also was silent three weeks ago when authorities uncovered a plot by four jailhouse Muslim converts to blow up a synagogue in New York City. According to authorities, the four men attempted to acquire plastic explosives and a stinger missile for the sole purpose of killing Jews. There is no doubt that the hate motivating these four Muslim converts is no different or less dangerous than the hate of a neo-Nazi. However, unlike the Holocaust Museum killing, neither the president nor his administration called for vigilance against Islamic extremism.

Why not?

And what about the free pass that the Obama administration gave to the New Black Panther Party three weeks ago? Like the neo-Nazi groups associated with Holocaust Museum killer, the New Black Panther Party has a history of hatred and anti-Semitism and is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ADL warns that the New Black Panther Party “has become the largest organized anti-Semitic black militant group in America” and continues to organize events throughout the country to spread its message of bigotry.

One such organized event occurred during the November 2008 election. As part of a nationwide effort, the New Black Panther Party sent two members to a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day. The two members were videotaped in front of a polling place wearing paramilitary clothing, black berets, combat boots, and at least one carried a nightstick in his hand. Both of them made racially derogatory comments, threats, and gestures to would-be voters and poll workers.

As a result of the conduct, the Voting Section of the Department of Justice filed a voter intimidation lawsuit to permanently enjoin the New Black Panther Party, as well as three members, from future acts of intimidation. The case was a slam dunk. Not only had the conduct been videotaped, the New Black Panther Party and its members refused to answer the complaint — that is, by legal standards, they were in default and were deemed to have admitted everything in the complaint. As well known civil rights attorney Bull Bartle noted, “It would qualify as the most blatant form of voter intimidation I have encountered in my life in political campaigns in many states, even going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s.”

The president’s political appointees at the Department of Justice dismissed the case against the New Black Panther Party.

While it continued to pursue an injunction case against one member (the one carrying a nightstick), it only requested a court order prohibiting the member from carrying a weapon within 100 feet of a polling place. In other words, the New Black Panther Party can continue to send its members to polling places in paramilitary clothing and block the entrance to a polling place. They can continue to yell racial epithets and threaten poll workers and voters. And, as long as they keep 100 feet away from the polling place, they can keep their weapons.

This is not the first time that President Obama has failed to take a stand against the New Blank Panther Party or its long history of hate speech. During the presidential campaign, the New Blank Panther Party maintained a webpage on President Obama’s official campaign website. While the campaign ultimately removed the webpage, the campaign did not take a stand against the New Black Panther Party, its hate-filled rhetoric, or its anti-Semitic message. The Obama campaign only removed the page because the New Black Panther Party advocated “violence” in achieving its goals.

What about the anti-Semitic and racial intolerance espoused by the New Black Panther Party? Are the viewpoints any less dangerous than the neo-Nazi’s viewpoints?

The president was right to say that America “must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.” Vigilance, however, requires more than empty rhetoric. It requires action and requires a president to lead by example. All forms must mean all forms. It must include not only neo-Nazis like the one that murdered the innocent guard at the Holocaust Museum, it must include Islamic extremists, anti-Semitic black militant groups, and former spiritual advisors. Bigotry and hatred must be recognized for what it is and must be denounced in each and every form.

Hate has no place for double standards or exceptions based on the president’s personal relationships or political gamesmanship.

Eric Eversole formerly worked as an attorney for the Voting Section of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
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