Secretary of State Kris Kobach stands by his comments to a caller on his weekly radio show Sunday that although he thought it unlikely, it would not be “a huge jump” for the Obama administration to call for an end to the prosecution of African-American suspects.
A caller to the Kris Kobach Show on KCMO Talk Radio asked if Kobach thought that, based on President Obama’s instruction against the enforcement of some immigration laws, it would be possible that one day the president would announce that “any black person accused of a crime, charged with a crime, is not going to be prosecuted, regardless of the crime.”
The question prompted Kobach to refer to a controversy surrounding the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against members of the New Black Panther Party accused of intimidating voters in Philadelphia in 2008.
“Well, it’s already happened more or less in the case of civil rights laws,” Kobach said. “So I guess it’s not a huge jump. I think it’s unlikely, but you know, I’ve learned to say with this president never say never.”
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Kobach’s comments were picked up by the liberal website Right Wing Watch. The same site publicized comments Kobach made in November in response to another caller’s question, in which he would not rule out the possibility that Obama’s executive action on immigration would lead to ethnic cleansing of whites.
The Kansas Democratic Party sent out a release decrying Kobach's comment as "hate speech" and calling it "a new low."
Kobach dismissed the criticism.
“My point was to bring attention to the Obama Justice Department’s position that some civil rights statutes can’t be enforced against people of color,” Kobach said. “For example, one of the Obama administration’s first actions it took in 2009 was to drop the slam-dunk charges against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation.”
Kobach said the Justice Department dropped the charges specifically because of race, a claim that has been disputed.
Christopher Coates, a former Justice Department official who headed up enforcement of voting laws, testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2010 that there was resistance in the Justice Department to enforce the laws against African-American defendants. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that race did not factor in to the decision to drop the charges.
“The point is the Obama administration has already done what the caller suggests in the context of voting civil rights statutes,” Kobach said Thursday. “So it’s already happened in one limited context. No, I don’t think it will happen in other contexts. I made it clear I don’t think that’s likely to happen.”
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, the only African-American woman in the Kansas Senate, called Kobach’s comments ridiculous.
“It’s just laughable,” she said. “I think to allow this type of dialogue and conversation without stopping it, to me, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.”