Social justice-minded journalists reacted predictably with implied and explicit accusations of racism after Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the term “Anglo-American” in describing the history of the office of sheriff Monday.
Their collective reaction ignores the history of American law enforcement and fails to contend with the use of the same term by an Obama Department of Justice official in service of the same historical point in 2016.
Vice News’ Tess Owens first noted Sessions’ remarks at the National Sheriff’s Association Conference. In replies to her initial tweet, she concedes that Sessions was “very likely … referring to the organizational structures of policing from Britain that the US adopted” but chastises him for using “such loaded language.”
“The office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office”: Sessions, speaking at National Sheriffs Association Conference
— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) February 12, 2018
The “loaded language” Owens referred to was also employed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer during a speech in Beijing in 2016, as first noted by Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly.
“The public conversation on these matters has been taking place for a long time. To cite just one example, Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court spoke on this subject to the Hong Kong High Court in February 1999,” Baer said. “There, he described 1000 years of evolution of rule of law and of the Anglo-American common law system. He also discussed how our judges and the private bar are all essential actors in rule of law, just as our Constitution, body of laws, and judicial precedents guide the implementation of rule of law in the United States.”
Despite the historical context surrounding Sessions’ remark (the office of Sheriff is a vestige of the English system of common law) and the term’s application in a variety of contexts by government officials of different political stripes, leftist journalists immediately followed Owens’ lead.
Anglo-American heritage? https://t.co/LzHVrApFUS
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) February 12, 2018
Anglo-American, huh? https://t.co/M9hl373Rpj
— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) February 12, 2018
Like i said previously: HE IS A WHOLE WHITE SUPREMACIST!!!!!!!!!!! Y’all this is a direct quote. https://t.co/QxnZDTEFEa
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) February 12, 2018
He’s talking about white heritage, people https://t.co/msQrDE5XfC
— Andy Campbell (@AndyBCampbell) February 12, 2018
Hard (impossible?) not to read this as white supremacist dog-whistling given the speaker and audience. https://t.co/qtRuX3n444
— Kumar Rao (@KumarRaoNYC) February 12, 2018
The official CNN account also joined in with a tweet that curiously leaves out the relevant context surrounding Sessions’ comment: he was talking specifically about the office of sheriff, not law enforcement broadly and he was speaking to a sheriff’s organization.
— CNN (@CNN) February 12, 2018
A Justice Department spokesman denounced allegations of racism in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“As most law students learn in the first week of their first year, Anglo-American law – also known as the common law – is a shared legal heritage between England and America,” the statement reads. “The sheriff is unique to that shared legal heritage. Before reporters sloppily imply nefarious meaning behind the term, we would suggest that they read any number of the Supreme Court opinions that use the term. Or they could simply put ‘Anglo-American law’ into Google.”
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