Ben Stein: Free James O’Keefe
posted at 10:40 am on February 1, 2010 by Patterico
Ben Stein compares O’Keefe’s case to that of alleged voter intimidation by self-declared Black Panthers, and asks why O’Keefe is being prosecuted and the Panthers are not:
In case you wonder what the future is for justice and law enforcement and media control in this country, take a look at two cases.
During the last Presidential election, a gang of men calling themselves Black Panthers showed up at a polling place in [Philadelphia]. They threatened any voter who did not vote for Barack Obama. This was witnessed and documented. (I am suspicious of their involvement with the real Black Panthers, whom I knew well in New Haven, who had a little more finesse along with many, many faults.)
The bullying was barely reported in the media. Even though it is an unequivocal violation of voting rights laws, it was decided by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, not to prosecute the case at all. Holder is the legal genius who thought of holding the trial for the self-styled master mind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in downtown Manhattan instead of in a military setting. He has recently backtracked on that.
Stein compares this to the case of O’Keefe, whom he considers to be simply a journalist. There is no question that the initial reports of O’Keefe’s alleged behavior were overblown, and poisoned the public mind with images of “Watergate Jr.” Even law enforcement has admitted that O’Keefe was not trying to wiretap Landrieu’s phone, and numerous news outlets have issued retractions of their initial claims of attempted “bugging.”
The current official version — that O’Keefe was trying to disable Landrieu’s phones — makes less sense every day. O’Keefe was videotaping the crew. One of the men wore a small camera on his helmet. They were asking questions about matters that repairmen would have no interest in. The affidavit reveals no mention of any tools that could be used inside a phone closet.
This does not sound like the actions of men engaged in felonious behavior.
Given the seeming lack of felonious intent, it appears increasingly clear that the only potentially viable charge is a misdemeanor for entering a federal building under false pretenses. Stein says:
They were undercover reporters and TV operators. But that doesn’t matter. Their real crime was disturbing the peace and quiet of the nation’s liberal establishment and embarrassing ACORN. For this, these pranksters are charged with a federal crime. (“First Amendment? What’s that?”)
Meanwhile, no charges against those thugs with the clubs at the polling place.
Indeed. Nor are there typically charges against news organizations that smuggle explosives past hapless TSA employees at airports.
Nor, for that matter, are there likely be charges against “Ellie Light,” the prolific letter-writer who sent dozens of letters to newspapers throughout the country under a phony name. The real “Ellie Light,” a man named Winston Steward, has admitted to sending the letters under a false name to the papers, including several in California — actions that violate a California misdemeanor against such behavior.
Yet prosecution of Steward, I imagine, would be very unlikely. And calls from the left to prosecute Steward are . . . far from deafening.
Steward was peddling lies. The Black Panthers were spreading fear. James O’Keefe was searching for the truth.
Only one of these cases is being prosecuted.
Maybe James O’Keefe did enter a federal building under false pretenses. Maybe.
But doesn’t every Congressperson do that every day?
Update: Many readers have pointed out that Stein misstated the location of the incident with the Black Panther poll thugs. It was Philadelphia, not Michigan. I have corrected the error.