CBS's Bob Schieffer on Sunday said the reason he didn't ask Attorney General Eric Holder about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case on last week's "Face the Nation" was because he didn't know about it.
Chatting with Howard Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Schieffer said, "This all really became a story when the whistleblower came out and testified that he'd had to leave the Justice Department and so on. And, frankly, had I known about that, I would have asked the question."
"I was on vacation that week. This happened -- apparently, it got very little publicity. And, you know, I just didn't know about it" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: The flap turns on one case of voter intimidation involving two members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. The Justice Department brought charges at the end of the Bush administration. Most of the case was dropped by the Obama administration. And a former Justice lawyer, a man by the name of J. Christian Adams, says this was done improperly for political and racial reasons.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has been on a tare over this story since interviewing Adams. The case has received a bit of coverage. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" have each done a belated story, and CNN's NEWSROOM has interviewed Adams.
When the subject didn't come up on last Sunday's "Face the Nation," Fox got on Bob Schieffer's case, especially Megyn Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Attorney General Eric Holder sit downs with CBS' "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer for a half hour, a one- on-one interview. And not one question about the now-infamous New Black Panther voter intimidation case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: More on the media's role ahead. But first, I spoke earlier with CBS' chief Washington correspondent.
KURTZ: Bob Schieffer, welcome.
BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": Hey.
KURTZ: Let's start with the obvious question. Why did you not ask Eric Holder in that interview about this former Justice official's allegation that a case against the New Black Panther Party was dropped because of racial politics?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's certainly a question that is a legitimate question to ask. And basically what happened was this all really became a story when the whistleblower came out and testified that he'd had to leave the Justice Department and so on. And, frankly, had I known about that, I would have asked the question.
I was on vacation that week. This happened -- apparently, it got very little publicity. And, you know, I just didn't know about it.
I mean, you know, God knows everything, but I'm not quite that good. Every once in a while, something will slip by me. And in this case, it just slipped by me. If I'd have known it, I would have asked about it.
KURTZ: All right.
Now, other people are offering other explanations. Megyn Kelly, who's been leading the charge on this issue at Fox News, had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I'm telling you one of two things happened. You tell me if I'm wrong. Number one, Schieffer doesn't care about the story and just decided to punt on it, even though you can find facts about it on CBS.com. So, the Web site over there is doing its job, but Schieffer apparently isn't interested in the story. Or, number two, the DOJ sent guidelines for this interview and told him you can't ask about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: Oh, well, that's not true. I mean, we never ever make deals with anybody that's on "Face the Nation," and you know that, Howie. People come on "Face the Nation" and they have to be prepared to ask whatever questions we ask.
Do I care about the story? Of course I care about the story.
It is a legitimate question. Had I known that this person had left the Justice Department and charged that there were things going on that shouldn't be going on, I would have asked the question. That simply --
KURTZ: Did anyone --
SCHIEFFER: -- just got by me. I didn't know about that particular thing.
I mean, this thing -- I know about this lawsuit. This is about something that happened back in 2008. But I think any reasonable person would also answer there hasn't been a lot of news about it until this Justice Department official came forward.
Amazing. Kind of reminds you of when former ABC "World News" host Charlie Gibson said last year that he wasn't aware of the charges against ACORN.
Unfortunately, Kurtz didn't ask his guest if everyone at CBS was also on vacation when this story broke, and how it's possible everyone involved in the production of last Sunday's "Face the Nation" was similarly oblivious.
On the other hand, as the ombudsman of the paper Kurtz writes for noted Sunday that the Washington Post had also ignored this voter intimidation case, Howard knows full well how such a story can go unreported.
Curiously, Kurtz didn't mention this piece from his own paper to Schieffer, and didn't bring it up with his subsequent guests invited to discuss the matter until the National Review's Jim Geraghty raised the issue.
Makes you wonder if Kurtz was going to ignore this if nobody else brought it up.
Another interesting part of this broadcast happened during the teaser. As the show began, Kurtz said:
It's not hard to tell when Fox News is pushing a story. It shows up hour after hour after hour. And Fox is pushing hard on allegations that the Justice Department dropped the case against the New Black Panther Party because of racial politics.
Couldn't the same be said of CNN when it's pushing a story, Howard?
Or how about in 2006 when his own paper pushed the George Allen "macaca" story almost every day for months.
As such, beginning the program accusing Fox of the same thing the two news outlets he works for regularly do seemed a tad hypocritical.
Maybe it's just me.