The Obama administration is attempting to publicly downplay a rift between President Obama and FBI Director James Comey over The Ferguson Effect; the issue of whether there’s been an impact on violent crime due to the nearly constant criticism of the police led by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The back peddling comes on the heels of a volley of attacks on Comey that came from the media, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Obama himself. Obama and Comey had a closed door meeting on Thursday.
The Washington Post reported that “White House officials were privately irritated” about Comey’s remarks in two recent speeches discussing a possible link between soaring violent crime rates and the deluge of activism against law enforcement.
The attacks on law enforcement have been spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement, the activist phenomenon that the president publicly recently claimed was not anti-police. The claim that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not against law enforcement runs counter to the group’s statements and actions, including taunting police after the murder of fellow officers, as well as their lionizing of convicted cop killer Assata Shakur, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.
In an attempt at damage control on Friday, White House Press Spokesman Josh Earnest said that President Obama believes “somebody who has the prodigious skills of Director Comey must be involved in grappling with the difficult policy debates that we’re having in this country right now in balancing security and the protection of civil liberties.”
Earlier in the week, however, Earnest had scoffed at the notion of the Ferguson Effects, saying evidence “does not support the notion that law enforcement officers around the country are shying away from fulfilling their responsibilities.”
That official White House comment was just part of a series of attacks on Comey and his statements by the president and his allies.
After Comey’s October 23rd remarks at the University of Chicago Law School, where Comey said, “I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement,” President Obama hit back with thinly veiled comments in a speech on October 27th to the International Association of Chiefs of Police: “What we can’t do is cherry-pick data or use anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.”
The day before Obama’s speech, protestors had held a #StopTheCops protest outside the international Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
However, Comey’s discussions with police officials were not merely off-the-cuff chit-chat. In fact, the information Comey got from law enforcement officials came in a series of “listening sessions” focused on issues of race and law enforcement.
The same day that the President criticized Comey’s comments, the editorial board of the New York Times also went on the attack against Comey in an op-ed titled “Political Lies About Police Brutality,” where they accepted the premise that there’s a widespread issue of police brutality and went after Comey, saying:
His formulation implies that for the police to do their jobs, they need to have free rein to be abusive. It also implies that the public would be safer if Americans with cellphones never started circulating videos of officers battering suspects in the first place.
The next day, Eric Holder spoke with reporters and compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and echoed the criticism of Comey, saying, “I don’t agree with the comments that he’s made about, or the connection he’s drawn, between the so-called ‘Ferguson effect’ and this rise in crime.”
Holder has openly discussed his role in the angry clashes with Columbia University when he attended in the early 1970s, telling students at a 2009 commencement speech, “I was among a large group of students who felt strongly about the way we thought the world should be, and we weren’t afraid to make our opinions heard. I did not take a final exam until my junior year at Columbia — we were on strike every time finals seemed to roll around.”
Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, learned “revolutionary community organizing” under the mentorship of Eric Mann, a Students for a Democratic Society radical who helped organize the 1968 protests at Columbia that received widespread national coverage.
However, even some Democrats admit the existence of the Ferguson Effect. Earlier in October former Obama Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said:
We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence. They have pulled back from the ability to interdict… they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.
The attacks on Comey come as President Obama is pushing a criminal justice reform agenda that has been advanced by the radical left for decades and more recently has been the chief policy demand of Black Lives Matter.
Follow investigative reporter and Citizen Journalism Boot Camp instructor Lee Stranahan on Twitter at @Stranahan.