Continuing to face down questions as to why the U.S. Justice Department went easy on prosecuting members of the New Black Panther Party who stood armed with nightsticks outside a Philadelphia polling location during the 2008 presidential election, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his personal frustration over the criticism that race played a role.
During a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, accused Holder’s DOJ of failing to cooperate with a Civil Rights Commission investigation into the decision to dismiss the case. Holder seemed to take personal offense when Culberson read comments from former Democratic activist Bartle Bull condemning the decision as the most serious act of voter intimidation he had witnessed during his career.
“Think about that,” Holder fired back. “When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia, which was inappropriate….to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people,” said Holder, an African American.
“To compare that kind of courage, that kind of action, to say some Black Panther incident is of greater concern to us, historically, I think just flies in the face of history,” the attorney general said.
Earlier in the hearing, Culberson insisted that race had indeed affected the DOJ’s decision-making process, accusing Holder’s agency of having a “double standard” when it comes to the rights of whites vs. blacks.
“This Department of Justice does not enforce the law on the basis of race,” Holder insisted.
Democratic Rep. Chakah Fattah acknowledged that the New Black Panthers “should not have been there,” but the Philadelphia congressman accused the GOP of playing the race card by focusing too much attention on the Black Panther case.
“The most unethical thing a person can do is make allegations based on absolutely nothing,” Fattah said. “The only issue of race is singling out this particular decision…That this rises to national significance is bogus on its face.”
During his Tuesday radio broadcast, conservative host Rush Limbaugh lashed out at Holder for his response to Culberson’s charges, suggesting Holder should take offense to Rep. Charlie Rangel’s claim that abolishing collective bargaining rights is akin to reinstate slavery: