The liberal network MSNBC is working overtime to defend the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) nominee who represented convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Debo Adegbile, Obama’s pick to head the civil rights division in Eric Holder’s DOJ, has been staunchly defended by groups including Media Matters for America, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Bar Association. Adegbile might face a Senate committee vote Thursday.
The Daily Caller reported Dec. 29 that Adegbile represented Abu-Jamal during his tenure as acting president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) in 2012. The following year Adegbile left LDF, which still serves as Abu-Jamal’s legal counsel.
“Whoever [defends Abu-Jamal] either doesn’t know or has chosen to ignore the facts of the case, which overwhelmingly support his conviction and guilt,” said a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, which strongly opposes Adegbile’s nomination, noting that the Obama administration has been in contact with the Fraternal Order since Adegbile’s past became a national media issue. The widow of Abu-Jamal’s victim Daniel Faulkner said she is “outraged” by Obama’s nomination and wants to testify during Adegbile’s confirmation process.
Adam Serwer’s editorial for MSNBC.com attacked conservatives for criticizing Adegbile’s record, arguing that Supreme Court Justice John Roberts once defended a mass murderer.
“The conservative campaign against Adegbile recalls an effort during Obama’s first term to attack Justice Department officials as terrorist sympathizers because they had successfully represented Gitmo detainees,” Serwer wrote.
“Adegbile’s nomination could come up for a committee vote as early as this week. Adegbile is likely not the last attorney to be nominated by either party who will face scrutiny and opposition based on having represented a hated client. It’s a partisan game,” Serwer wrote.
MSNBC commentator and BET and The Grio writer Zerlina Maxwell chimed in that GOP attacks on Adegbile are “Ridic” and “a disgrace.”
“These are the hardest cases, but our commitment in the Constitution is to follow these rules even in the hardest cases,” Adegbile said at his confirmation hearing when asked about his Abu-Jamal defense.
But records demonstrate a close personal relationship between Abu-Jamal and LDF attorneys during Adegbile’s approximately 12-year time with the group.
On April 16, 2012, Adegbile joined his colleagues and Attorney General Eric Holder — who read remarks sent from President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — in speaking at the Washington Convention Center for a tribute to deceased LDF president John Payton, whom Adegbile immediately succeeded.
According to a contemporaneous NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund event summary, the “point” of Adegbile’s speech “was reinforced briefly but powerfully when the next speaker, Christina Swarns, director of LDF’s Criminal Justice Practice, read a hand-written note she had received from Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
“I was off death row, and, thanks to John, represented by one of the most respected civil rights litigation agencies in America. But life is, if anything, unpredictable. Within weeks of my leaving death row, news came of the passing of John Payton. To call it a shock would be an understatement … John Payton shows us that a great impact cannot be measured by time. He brought depth and insight that will continue to radiate not just through the agency but through many of its clients. I know. I am one of them, and I am thankful for our time together,” Abu-Jamal stated in his remarks.
“He entered with energy and determination and a sense of joy at the conflict. We met, talked shop, and dug each other — a meeting on death row that both relished,” Abu-Jamal stated referring to Payton, under whom Adegbile served as LDF director of litigation.
Abu-Jamal, a former member of the Black Panther Party, was convicted for the December 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, stemming from a shootout that resulted after Abu-Jamal approached Faulkner, who had pulled over Abu-Jamal’s younger brother at a traffic stop.
In addition to his membership in the Black Panther Party, Abu-Jamal was loosely associated with the Philadelphia based separatist organization MOVE. While supporters describe him as a journalist, Abu-Jamal was driving a taxi at the time he murdered Faulkner. He has since become an iconic figure in the left-wing media and activist circles.