Smacking Down Right Wing Lies About Labor Nominee Tom Perez
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President Obama has nominated Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
MYTH: Perez's Civil Rights Division Impermissibly Discriminates Against Whites
Fox News' Megyn Kelly And Sekulow: Under Perez, The Civil Rights Division (CRD) Has Enforced The Voting Rights Act (VRA) In A Manner That Is "Not Consistent With The Legislation Or The Legislative History." Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent guest Jay Sekulow used a recent Inspector General report to accuse Perez of leading a CRD that does not protect white voters under the VRA, because of "racial hostility." From Fox's America Live:
SEKULOW: [The Office of the Inspector General is] concerned about the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act that's not consistent with the legislation or the legislative history. That there's been systemic problems within the department. When you look at the New Black Panther Party case, the idea that you didn't enforce a violation for voter intimidation and voter harassment because the people that were harassed were white is ridiculous, but that's the position that [Perez] has taken.
KELLY: [I]n recent years, a debate has arisen about whether voting rights laws that were enacted in response to discrimination against blacks and other minorities also should be used to challenge allegedly improper voting practices that harm white voters. Disputes were ignited when leadership decided to pursue particular cases on behalf of white victims and more recently when division leadership stated that it would focus on "traditional" civil rights cases on behalf of racial or ethnic minorities. What do you take from that?
SEKULOW: Here is the problem and this is a significant problem, the law is not being applied in a colorblind manner, which is what it's supposed to be. So you've got this institutional incompatibility as if the institution is incapable of doing this alone or applying this law in a neutral manner and it really goes beyond Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal. The law is the law and it needs to be applied as such and that's really the problem and I think that's what the Inspector General concludes. [Fox News, America Live, 3/15/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: The CRD Under Perez Has Followed Congressional Intent And Text Of Voting Rights Act
Office Of The Inspector General (OIG): Perez Was Referencing Long-Time Precedent When He Noted Certain Parts Of The VRA Are Specifically Designed To Protect Communities Of Color. The Department of Justice (DoJ) has enforced the VRA against defendants of color (including in the New Black Panther Party case), but the Supreme Court in Beer v. United States has confirmed that Section 5 of the VRA protects demographics who have historically been the victims of voter suppression. From the DoJ OIG report:
In both public filings and statements to the OIG, the Division has stated that it interprets the non-retrogression principle of Section 5 to be "race-conscious," in that it does not cover White citizens when they are in the numerical minority in a covered jurisdiction. See e.g.,LaRoque v. Holder, Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (stating: "the non-retrogression principle of Section 5 has always been race-conscious in that it denies preclearance only to voting changes that 'would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise,'" quoting Beer).
Perez stated that interpreting Section 5's retrogressive-effect standard to not cover White citizens was consistent with the Division's longstanding practice, as well as case law interpreting the provision and the intent behind its enactment. Perez also told the OIG that he believed interpreting the retrogressive-effect prong of the analysis to cover White citizens would be inconsistent with the history of and intent behind Section 5, which he stated was enacted to remedy the specific problem of discrimination against racial minorities. Perez's letter stated that the precise question of whether the retrogressive-effect prong of Section 5 protects White citizens has arisen "exceedingly rarely," but asserted that a series of Supreme Court opinions "has consistently recognized that Section 5 was enacted to deal with a particular historical problem of racial discrimination against minorities." [Department of Justice Office Of the Inspector General, March 2013, citations omitted]