The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin Is Still Wrong About the New Black Panther Party
Long before Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin fabricated the existence of a real-time video feed of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, deliberately misled her readers in her coverage of Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, and compared Jewish Democrats supporting Chuck Hagel to Jewish leaders who failed to prevent the Holocaust, she wrote that the Obama White House had conspired to shield the New Black Panther Party, a buffoonish black separatist group, from being brought up on voter intimidation charges during the 2008 election.
Titled "Friends in High Places," Rubin's June 2010 expose in the Weekly Standard alleged that the "Obama Justice Department went to bat for the New Black Panther party—and then covered it up." Rubin's reporting on the New Black Panther voter intimidation case has now been eviscerated by not one but two internal investigations of the Justice Department's civil rights division, though Rubin has gone out of her way to avoid recognizing this.
Rubin's claim rested on the fact that, shortly after Obama took office, interim leaders of the civil rights division dropped some of the charges in a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. The idea that the first black president of the United States and his black attorney general were going out of their way to protect an anti-white black fringe group fulfilled two right-wing fantasies—Obama as closet radical and his administration as an elaborate scheme of racial revenge against whites. The head of the civil rights division under Bush had broken civil service laws by seeking to purge liberals from the division and then lying to Congress about it, and, to conservatives like Rubin, the New Black Panther case was proof that the Obama Justice Department was no less politicized.
The problem, however, is that right-wing narrative is bogus. In 2011, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) found "no evidence that the decision to dismiss the case against three of the four defendants was predicated on political considerations." The interim heads of the civil rights division had dropped some of the charges against the NBPP not because they'd been pushed to by the AG or the White House, but rather because they had discovered the conservative-leaning attorneys who filed the case had left out key—and possibly exculpatory—information. The OPR report also found, contrary to Rubin's reporting and to right-wing allegations, that political higher-ups at the Justice Department had sought to prevent the New Black Panther Party case from being dismissed outright.
A second report on the topic, from the Justice Department Inspector General's office, was released Tuesday. Like the OPR report before it, the IG report found that the decision to narrow the case was "based on a good faith assessment of the law and facts of the case." Perhaps more importantly, the IG report found no evidence that the division "improperly favored or disfavored any particular group of voters."
Rubin has not acknowledged that her writing on the New Black Panther Party has been discredited by the two reports. Instead, she has taken Tuesday's IG report as a vindication, declaring that "things were much worse than most imagined":
The IG declined to find a racial or political motive for dismissing the New Black Panther case, but found actions surrounding that action "risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws." In other words, it sure looked partisan.
The appearance of partisanship, in Rubin's telling, is "much worse" than the Obama administration being racist. Rubin hasn't moved the goalposts, she's flung them into another dimension. Yet Rubin's elaborate pratfall is not yet complete: When the original OPR report, which came to the same conclusion as the IG report regarding the New Black Panther case, was released in March 2011, Rubin called it "unprofessional" and "biased." Holding two wildly divergent opinions on the same set of facts is something of a Rubin speciality.