by Dave Weigel
I don't really get a chance to watch TV in Unalaska, and the one thing I miss is Megyn Kelly of Fox News. The last week or so of her work -- her one woman crusade against the New Black Panther Party -- has been truly riveting television. Kelly widens her eyes in a way that bespeaks both horror and anger at the subject she's reporting on. "Shocking new video," she'll say, introducing a clip of the Panthers acting like idiots and yelling about "crackers" at a Philadelphia street festival. "We have a DOJ whistleblower alleging there is a discriminatory policy at the DOJ voting rights section," she'll say, "and no one seems to give a darn." It's the "darn" that ties this together -- she's not just a journalist, she's a concerned citizen who has to bring you this story before it's. Too. Late.
The people who grab these videos for the web use the same cliches to title them. "Megyn Kelly DESTROYS Kirsten Powers on New Black Panther Case" says one of them; "Megyn Kelly schools lib pundit over New Black Panthers Party." But why is she doing so many stories on the Panthers? It's because Fox News uses the Panthers the way that Phil Donohue used to use the KKK or G.G. Allin. They're good on TV. The difference between the Panthers and other freakish groups that look good on the air, of course, is that that they threaten white people.
How often does Fox bring on the Panthers, or talk about them? A Lexis-Nexis search finds 68 mentions of "Malik Zulu Shabazz," a leader of the NBPP. The majority are appearances on Fox News, where Shabazz is repeatedly brought on to act as a foolish, anti-Semitic punching bag. Among the segment titles: "Professor's Comments on Whites Stir Controversy" and "Black Panthers Take a Stand on Duke Rape Case." Here's one example of a Shabazz appearance during the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Fox was the only network to book him; Sean Hannity conducted the interview.
HANNITY: Malik Zulu Shabazz joins us right now. Malik, welcome back to the program. Now, we didn't show the one time I think you called me a devil on the air. So I'm going and try to start off and see if we can have a civil dialogue here tonight. You said I have nothing but respect for and his pastor. Is there nothing that the pastor said that you disagree with?
SHABAZZ: I understand that he comes from the black church tradition. And in the church they study Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah and Egypt. And they believe that those nations in the church. Both the black church and white evangelicals believe powerful nations in the past that have done evil to their slaves will be condemned by God. So this is not just Jeremiah Wright. It's a regular church teaching. Same teaching that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson do the same teaching.
HANNITY: Do you believe G.D. [God damn] America? Is that your view?
SHABAZZ: I think that's too simplistic of a question.
HANNITY: That's not simplistic, it's the right question because these are the words of Jeremiah Wright.
This isn't journalism. No one cares what the NBPP thinks about anything. This is minstrelsy, with a fringe moron set up like a bowling pin for Hannity to knock down. And that's the role the NBPP plays on Fox, frequently.
Kelly's obsession with the current NBPP controversy is something else, though. No one disputes that two members of the Panthers lurked outside of a heavily black, Democratic polling place in Philadelphia on election day 2008, and no one thinks this was a smart or legal thing for them to do. Police were called to the scene to disperse them, and King Samir Shabazz, who was filmed holding (though not using) a nightstick, lost the right to be a poll-watcher for the next election cycle. It was the only recorded incident like this in the nation; nearly two years later, no voter has come forward and said he or she was prevented from voting by the Panthers. And in his publicity tour to attack the DOJ over the Panther case -- a second-rate case against a fifth-rate hate group -- J. Christian Adams has been unable to name any case in which the DOJ was presented with a crime committed by black people and chose not to prosecute it.
So why obsess over the Panthers? Is it turnabout for the way that liberals elevate the craziest tea party activists, or the way they call them racist? Because it's obviously not a search for justice or a muckraking effort to discover reverse racism in the DOJ. If this is an effort to make sure that King Samir Shabazz is prosecuted for intimidating voters, why not try to find some voters he intimidated? Why, instead, as Kelly and Glenn Beck have opted to do, show video of the Shabazz yelling about "crackers" at a street fair before the election? No one disputes that he hates white people -- just watch one of the tapes from the times Fox News invited his colleagues on to discuss how they hate white people.
One of the more jarring passages in Rick Perlstein's "Nixonland" is his recounting of a popular myth that went around Iowa in 1966, the year of the conservative backlash against the Great Society. The myth was that black gang members on motorcycles were going to head from Chicago to ransack Des Moines. Reading this in 2008, it sounded preposterous, the kind of thing that no one could believe in the country that was about to elect Barack Obama. But Kelly, under the guise of journalism, is working to create a rumor like this in 2010. Watch her broadcasts and you become convinced that the New Black Panthers are a powerful group that hate white people and operate under the protection of Eric Holder's DOJ. That "Megyn Kelly DESTROYS Kirsten Powers" video that I mentioned begins with her introducing a clip of a town hall meeting with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Ca.) in which he gets an angry question about whether the DOJ has a policy of not prosecuting African-Americans.
"I am extremely sure that we do not have a policy at the Department of Justice of never prosecuting a black defendent."
The crowd rises up. "Yes you do!" shouts one voter. When Sherman says he doesn't know much about the Panther case, the crowd erupts in boos. They've been driven to fear and distrust of their DOJ by round-the-clock videos of one racist idiot brandishing a nightstick for a couple hours in 2008.