The chairman of the New Black Panther Party, in an interview Friday with Fox News, defended his group amid an uproar over a voter intimidation case dropped by the Obama administration, a move that an ex- Justice Department official alleges was for racial reasons.
Malik Zulu Shabazz distanced himself from the actions of Minister King Samir Shabazz, seen in an amateur video from November 2008 brandished a billy club at a Philadelphia polling station, an incident that led to charges of coercion, threats and intimidation. The Black Panther chairman told Fox News' Megyn Kelly that the actions caught on video "were outside of organizational policy."
"We still do not condone the carrying of nightsticks at polling places and we have been consistent on that since Day One," he said. "Any individual member that violates organizational policy cannot be attributed to the organization any more than any individual member of the Catholic Church, one of their acts can be charged to the Vatican."
Malik Shabazz's comments come after J. Christian Adams, who quit the Justice Department last month over the handling of the case against the Black Panthers and its members, accused his former superiors of instructing attorneys in the civil rights division to ignore cases that involve black defendants and white victims.
Adams' allegations have led the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to plan a new round of subpoenas and call for a separate federal probe.
But Shabazz alleged that the story is being "overhyped and overblown" as "part of a right-wing Republican conspiracy to demonize President Obama, his administration, to demonize the New Black Panther Party and blacks in order to drum up white dissatisfied support for the midterm elections."
Asked whether he agreed with the sentiments of Samir Shabazz, seen in other video footage calling white people "crackers" and urging blacks to kill them and their babies, the chairman said "no." But he acknowledged he may have called whites "crackers" himself.
As chairman, Malik Shabazz was one of three Black Panthers charged in a civil complaint with violating the Voter Rights Act in the November 2008 incident, and Samir Shabazz specifically was accused of brandishing what prosecutors called a deadly weapon.
The Obama administration won a default judgment in federal court in April 2009 when the Black Panthers didn't appear in court to fight the charges. But the administration moved to dismiss the charges in May 2009. Justice attorneys said a criminal complaint against Samir Shabazz, which resulted in the injunction, proceeded successfully.
The injunction states that Samir Shabazz cannot appear at a polling station in Philadelphia until after 2012.
Malik Shabazz said that it was "right" for the Justice Department to drop the charges against the organization and the party's leadership.
He also said Samir Shabazz was suspended for his actions before he was reinstated as a Black Panther member.
When asked whether Samir Shabazz is a racist, Malik Shabazz said, "I can't speak for him on that. I would say the New Black Panther Party is not a hate group or a racist organization."