Keith Olbermann Blames Black Panther Case On – Wait For It – Former Pres. Bush

Sometimes I feel like the cable news opinion shows are like bumpers on a bowling lane. You head towards one until they exaggerate a story and bounce you in the direction of the other which bounces you back. Hopefully, in the end, you’ll be somewhere near the middle and, presumably, the truth. The New Black Panther/voter intimidation case is a perfect example. While Fox News and the conservative media have been aggressively pointing to it as a clear sign of malfeasance by the Obama administration, Keith Olbermann found a way to blame the entire thing on President Bush. As usual, neither side is completely wrong and neither side is completely right.

On Monday’s Countdown, Olbermann excitedly pointed out a “smoking gun” that would completely destroy Fox News’ “newsgasm” (I’ll give Olbermann this, “newsgasm” is funny) over the case. In January of 2009, before Obama took office, Tom Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the civil rights division, said that the facts of the case did not “constitute a prosecutable violation.” Therefore, it was Bush’s Department of Justice who dropped the ball on the case, not Obama’s. While Olbermann is right that Bush’s DOJ didn’t prosecute, his comments implied that they were the ones who dropped all the charges. That’s not the case.

From the New York Times:

“In January 2009, less than two weeks before the Bush administration left office, the civil rights division invoked a rarely used section of the Voting Rights Act to file a civil lawsuit alleging voter intimidation by both men, the party chairman and the party.

In April 2009, the division seemed to win the case by default because the New Black Panthers failed to show up in court. But the following month, a longtime Justice official, Loretta King — who was then the acting head of the division — decided to reduce the scope of the case.

The department dropped the charges against the party, its chairman and the man who was not carrying a club. It pressed forward with the lawsuit against the man with the club, obtaining an injunction that forbids him from carrying a weapon near an open polling place in Philadelphia through 2012.”

The fact that the Bush administration also felt that this wasn’t the “open and shut” case that Fox News would have you believe may take some wind out of their sails, but not as much as Olbermann implies here. Also, Fox News (and our own Steve Krakauer) has been making a good point about the lack of coverage that the rest of the media has been giving this story. Olbermann gets his own good point in though, by remarking that some of Fox News’ coverage has had a bit of an uncomfortable racial tinge to it.

So both sides are partially right and both sides are also exaggerating. If only there was some channel that would bowl the ball straight down the middle in prime time towards the truth. Of course, if there was a channel like that, they’d probably get horrible ratings. Just ask CNN…

RELATED: Check out more of our posts on the coverage of this story. In addition to Steve Krakauer’s aforementioned posts, make sure to watch Tommy Christopher’s exclusive interview with New Black Panther Party Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz (clips of which have been in heavy rotation on Fox). While other outlets may be ignoring the story, Christopher writes about how Fox News and the New Black Panthers are serving each other through its proliferation:

“Given recent events, including several ominous pronouncements from this very interview, some may ask “Why shouldn’t we be afraid?” It’s a good question. While some conservatives seem invested in conjuring a Black Menace, I would point out that, to a certain degree, they share common cause with the New Black Panther Party. As you’ll see in our interview, Chairman Shabazz seems, at times, to happily play the part of Black Menace, in service to Black Self-Defense. A little fear, and a lot of publicity, serve his interests almost as well as it serves Fox News’.

But, as Shabazz says in our interview, his organization is very poorly-funded. He wouldn’t specify membership numbers, but the party’s absence from the cultural landscape, aside from the above-mentioned artificial spikes, is instructive. So is the fact that Shabazz is scheduled to appear on Fox this afternoon, with Megyn Kelly.”

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