Sean Hannity Resurrects Lie That Barack Obama ‘Spoke With’ New Black Panthers


As part of a despicable years-long attempt by conservatives to associate President Obama with the fringe New Black Panther Party, Fox News’ Sean Hannity resurrected a smear that President Obama “spoke with” the designated hate group at a 2007 event, and chirped, “There’s a picture of that!”

Update: When George Zimmerman’s attorneys announced they were withdrawing as counsel, they referenced an off-the-record conversation that Zimmerman had with Sean Hannity. Hannity confirms the existence of that call at about the 2:45 mark in the video below.

It’s a lie, as surely as Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli‘s contention that the President and Attorney General Eric Holder have “involvement with the Black Panther movement.”

First of all, the New Black Panthers are not part of any “Black Panther movement,” they are a tiny fringe group that has not only been denounced by the original Black Panthers, they’ve also been sued by them.

When Deneen Borelli states, as fact, that President Obama, while running for president in 2007, “spoke with the Black Panthers (sic),” Hannity chimes in “There’s a picture of that, by the way! With Malik Zulu Shabazz!”

Really? There’s a picture of then-Senator Barack Obama speaking with the New Black Panthers, and/or with Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz? Did any Fox viewers wonder why Hannity, then, decided not to show this picture?

Maybe because that picture would have looked like this:

The fact is, then-Senator Obama didn’t “speak with” the New Black Panthers, he spoke at a commemoration of the 1965 Selma, Alabama march, which Shabazz and Co. also attended and spoke at, . It wasn’t a campaign event, it was open to the public, and that supposedly damning “photo” is a screen cap from a YouTube video that shows Malik Zulu Shabazz among a crowd of thousands marching behind then-Sen. Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. In a radio interview, Shabazz claimed to have “met” Obama at that event, but never to have spoken with him.

This is nothing new, and it’s part of a campaign, to paint Barack Obama as a puppet of some looming Black Menace, that’s as desperate as it is persistent. Here’s a quick recap of the right’s long history of trying to scare white people by implying some sort of relationship between the New Black Panther Party and Barack Obama. During the 2008 campaign, reports surfaced that the Obama campaign had posted an endorsement of the candidate, by the NBPP, on its website. But what really happened was that an NBPP member posted a blog in a user-controlled forum (kinda like our comments section), and it was later removed.

In the waning hours of that campaign, the McCain campaign also pushed a story about two NBPP members outside a Philadelphia polling place, who were chased away by police because one of them was holding a nightstick. The group’s leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, told me the following day that those two members defied his explicit instructions in bringing a weapon to a polling place. He was authentically angry about it, but mainly because of the heat it would bring down on his organization.

That story would become the basis for an overreaching suit by the Bush Justice Department that resulted in default judgments against the two members, and the organization. The Obama DOJ vacated the judgments, citing a lack of legal justification, and obtained an injunction against the man who had carried the nightstick. A politically-stacked Civil Rights Commission took up the case in order to, as one Republican member of the Commission said, “bring Eric Holder down and really damage the President.”

The whole thing got tick-tock coverage on a number of Fox News programs, and across the conservative web, but very little from the mainstream press, except to debunk it.

When President Obama expressed sympathy for the family of Trayvon Martin, the conservative Daily Caller website immediately tried to link the statement to the New Black Panthers, later changing the story in the face of criticism. The site has also tried to tie the NBPP to Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of the Trayvon Martin case, publishing a letter from an anonymous alleged family member of George Zimmerman, asking Holder to take action against the group for placing a bounty on Zimmerman (the Sanford Police have already spoken to members of the group, and declined to take any action).

The fact is, the conservative media is happy to trot out the NBPP to scare up outrageous sound bytes, but they do next to no actual reporting on them. I’ve been covering them since 2008, and conducted an extensive interview with Malik Zulu Shabazz in 2010. While he was happy to cough up lots of great sound, he was less than enthusiastic about answering questions about his organization, admitting only that they were poorly-funded. I tried to set up the interview at the NBPP headquarters in Washington, DC, but Mr. Shabazz insisted on meeting elsewhere. After our interview, which he described as “very fair,” I tried to arrange to cover the NBPP’s promised counter-protest to Glenn Beck’s rally, starting at NBPP headquarters, and to interview another member at the group’s Philadelphia chapter. He denied both requests, and won’t discuss the number of members in the group. Their website still features a call for a “Day of Action” on April 23, 2011. The New Black Panthers are a tiny, poorly-funded, poorly-organized group being kept alive by television cameras.

I’m not sure why the Sanford Police gave the New Black Panthers a mulligan on their “Wanted: Dead or Alive” leaflets, but the Supreme Court ruled, in Brandenburg v. Ohio, that in order to punish this kind of speech, it must meet three tests: intent, imminence, and likelihood to incite “lawless action.”

I’ve asked the Sanford Police about it, and am awaiting a reply, but my guess is that they failed to sufficiently meet the “likelihood” standard, and/or that such a case would have been more trouble than it was worth to prosecute.

This attempt by Hannity, coupled with the ongoing campaign I’ve described, seem to go along with a not-so-stealth campaign to link President Obama with a black bogeyman, any black bogeyman. Fox and Friends is banging the Jeremiah Wright gong again, and Buzzfeed was recently buzz-fed a ridiculous Willie Horton-style oppo item by a nameless Republican strategist. Watch for more of this as the campaign heats up.

Update: When George Zimmerman’s attorneys announced they were withdrawing as counsel, they referenced an off-the-record conversation that Zimmerman had with Sean Hannity. Hannity confirms the existence of that call at about the 2:45 mark in the video below.

Here’s the Hannity clip, from Fox News:

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