Congressman Says He Didn't Know Black Panther Case Because Media Didn't Cover It

A California congressman who drew shouts of disbelief at a town hall meeting when he said he was unaware of the voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party explained that the reason he hadn't heard about the story was because his news sources didn't cover it.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., in a written statement released late Tuesday, accused Fox News of launching "attacks on me" for showing video of the meeting. He said he would soon send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the incident and "the importance of allegations of voter intimidation," but said the "major sources of information which I rely upon most" did not mention the issue.

But he also offered an excuse for missing the news, saying none of the media he reads covered it.

Sherman listed the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, the Economist, Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and National Journal and said he only found one mention of the Black Panther case.

"While it is possible that our review missed something, it can be said that less than one page per 50,000 from the above sources deals with the issue," Sherman said. "In contrast, Fox News covered the issue repeatedly."

The nearly two-year-old case resurfaced this month when J. Christian Adams, who recently quit the Justice Department, lobbed accusations at 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, which is investigating the Justice Department's handling of the case, to plan a new round of subpoenas and call for a separate federal probe.

The remarkable scene at the town hall meeting on Sunday Sherman was captured on video and posted on YouTube.

When asked by a constituent for reaction to explosive allegations by an ex- Justice Department official that the Obama administration abandoned the New Black Panther case for racial reasons and is not pursuing voter violation cases involving white victims and black defendants, Sherman disputed the charge.

"I am extremely sure that we do not have a policy at the Department of Justice of never prosecuting a black defendant when the victim is white," he said, drawing shouts of "Yes, you do!"

"I'm sure it may say that somewhere on the Internet but that doesn't mean it's true," he said, drawing more jeers.

"As to the Black Panther Party, I'm simply not aware of that case," he said, drawing a sustained cry of hissing, boos and outrage. One constituent can be heard saying, "Just for that answer, I'm not voting for you."

In the final days of the Bush administration, the radical group and three of its members were charged in a civil complaint with violating the Voter Rights Act in the November 2008 incident, and one, King 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 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.