Did Conservatives Actually Scream 'Hang Eric Holder' in New York?

Many conservatives remember the myth of protesters yelling "Kill him!" at Obama during 2008 campaign rallies. The Secret Service couldn’t find any proof when a Pennsylvania reporter claimed to hear it. Well, last week on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, former Wall Street Journal reporter Jane Mayer (now with The New Yorker) was claiming there were "Hang Eric Holder" screams at a December protest against holding a Khalid Sheikh Muhammad trial in Manhattan.

A Nexis scan of December 5 and 6 news accounts of the protest by AP, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, the New York Post, the Times of Trenton, and several North Jersey newspapers found no trace of a suggestion of such a nasty call. Even Daphne Eviatar of the left-leaning Washington Independent didn’t report it.

Here’s what Mayer claimed on the Gross show, as she explained how Scott Brown exploited fears of terrorism in his Senate race:

MAYER: There had been rallies, and you asked me earlier about what Keep America Safe did. One of the things that they've done is they've helped to promote public demonstrations. And there was a pretty there was a small but kind of virulent rally in New York City that took place in early December where they pushed these issues very hard.

GROSS: And what was the rhetoric like at the rally?

MAYER: The rhetoric was I was there. It the rhetoric was as poisonous as any rally I've ever attended, and I've been covering politics for 25 years. Some of the things that were said by the crowd we at the New Yorker were unable to print because it was really too vile. But basically, the crowd was shouting at a Jumbotron that showed coverage of Eric Holder, the attorney general's, testimony in Congress on the subject of giving civilian trials to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And basically, the crowd was screaming things like traitor and communist and hang him, and they literally were...

GROSS: Hang Eric Holder.

MAYER: Hang Eric Holder, and they were also they were actually literally saying lynch him, of Eric Holder, who is of course our first black attorney general. So it was an ugly scene. It was an upsetting scene, and the crowd was upset.

Here’s how Mayer portrayed it in her February 15 New Yorker piece:

Andrew McCarthy, the former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, also gave a speech, declaring that Holder didn’t "understand what rule of law has always been in wartime." He said, "It’s military commissions. It’s not to wrap our enemies in our Bill of Rights."

"Traitor!" someone shouted.

Edith Lutnick, who works for the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, told the crowd, "My brother, Gary, lost his life that day." The 9/11 victims, she said, "were murdered by the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and we do not want him and his fellow-terrorists tried in that building. . . . We need to tell Eric Holder that we will be victims no more."

"Lynch Holder!" an onlooker cried.

One protester, Carolyn Walton, who works for a water-filtration company in Manhattan, told me that Holder was "a Marxist mole." She asked, "How can someone who is not an American have any right to our rights? Holder wants to help the terrorists."

So is it "Lynch Holder" or "Hang Eric Holder"? The accounts seem to shift. Can we trust a reporter on such an inflammatory charge against conservatives without any recording or any corroborating media account?

Even if someone did say it, like the claim Holder was a "Marxist mole," is it representative of the opposition to trying KSM in Manhattan? NPR and other media outlets edited most of the radical blather out of the anti-war movement during the last administration.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis