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Is Bill O'Reilly Meddling in Georgia Politics?

Reported by Marie Therese - February 22, 2005

In November 2004 Paul Howard, a Democrat, ran unopposed for District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia and thus became the first African-American D.A. in the history of that state. One would assume he was unchallenged because the Republicans had no viable candidate to put up against him. In the same election former prosecutor Shannon Goessling, a white conservative Republican, who is also the Executive Director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, lost her bid to become State Attorney General. Last week in my 2/16/05 post, I reported that on February 15th Bill O'Reilly exhorted his Georgia viewers to start a "recall" campaign against D. A. Howard based on Howard's alleged mishandling of a six-year-old case

On 2/16/05 he followed up by interviewing two "experts" - James Fox, Ph. D. of Northeastern University and Michael King of Project 21 - during which he tried to justify his claim that District Attorney Howard does not value black victims and that this is shown by his willingness to allow Carisa Ashe to plead down a manslaughter charge to 5 years probation and submitting to a tubal ligation.

Ashe, 34 years old, is an African-American, the mother of eight with no prior abuse charges, who may have killed her five-week-old child in 1998 in the throes of post-partum depression. She is clearly a woman with massive emotional issues that have never been addressed and there are differing medical opinions as to whether or not the child died from sudden infant death syndrome, shaken baby syndrome or was murdered.

After his initial segment on the topic, O'Reilly posted a column on his web site as well as a letter that can be e-mailed directly from the site to protest the plea bargain, demanding that Fulton County rescind the please bargain and prosecute Ms. Ashe for murder.

Last night "Pale-Faced Culture Warrior" Bill O'Reilly and "Lily-White-Daughter-of-the-South" Shannon Goessling continued their attack on that "Low-Down-Lazy-Do-Nothin'-Black" District Attorney Paul Howard. My transcript of their discussion follows. (Aside to our readers: As you can probably tell, I had to fight an overwhelming urge to rephrase the entire discussion in the flowery patois of Victorian melodrama!)

O'Reilly: Last week we reported the terrible story of five year [sic] old Destiny Ashe, killed by her mother Carisa who then avoided jail time by agreeing to be sterilized. The whole thing took six years to adjudicate. Now, we criticized Atlanta District Attorney Paul Howard for not aggressively prosecuting the case. Now, Howard has struck back through the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling our reporting erroneous but we stand by our reporting. Joining us now from Atlanta, Shannon Goessling, the Executive Director for the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Miss Goessling worked under D.A. Howard as the Director of Crimes Against Women and Children. So, you know this guy and his office very well?

GOESSLING: Absolutely.

O'Reilly: And you know they're attacking us using the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which doesn't like me or The Factor and, in fact, the audience should know the Atlanta paper never called us - just printed these attacks on us without any kind of rebuttal or reply. So am I makin' a mistake in this case, madame?

GOESSLING: No, you're not making a mistake at all. To suggest that this is a crime of procreation versus a crime of violence is absurd. Every single person in Fulton County and the state of Georgia should be outraged at this plea. Ask yourself this, Bill. If this woman killed her child, then this plea and this sentence is outrageous. If she didn't kill her daughter, then this plea and sentence is outrageous. Any way you look at it, you're right on the money.

O'Reilly: Alright, now. We have a copy of the autopsy. It's a hundred pages and we have sent it out to an independent coroner and we will have that later this week or early next week and tell you about the autopsy.

[COMMENT: I certainly hope the "independent" coroner has never once appeared on the FOX News Channel as a guest!]

O'Reilly: But, the official press release from Howard's office says "The cause of death was shaking and blunt force trauma resulting in injury, swelling and hemorrhage to the brain..." This is what they put out.

GOESSLING: Right.

O'Reilly: Now they're telling the Atlanta Constitution "Well, we didn't know whether it was murder or not. That's what - that's why we didn't pursue the case aggressively." So, who's lying and why is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution just printin' this garbage when they know it just doesn't pass the smell test?

GOESSLING: It doesn't pass the smell test. Look at the fact that it took six years to make a very bad decision. But enough evidence was presented to a Grand Jury to get a five count indictment, including murder and felony murder. And the fact is, if you're gonna plead down a case to voluntary manslaughter, the sentence should be 20 years. I'm not worried about her ability to have children because, if she's sittin' in prison for 20 years, she's not gonna be able to have any children.

O'Reilly: Yeah. She's already had eight children and they're all in various degrees of chaos. One of them's missing! It's unbelievable! What's wrong with this Howard? What's his problem?

GOESSLING: Well, I'll tell ya' what. He's a politician, not a prosecutor. That is the problem. And he makes decisions without actually understanding the system. I mean, you look back at the Ray Lewis case. How is it possible in the state of Georgia that you have somebody who's charged with murder and gets to plead to misdemeanor obstruction? They're charged with murder and then they get five years' probation and a medical procedure. I mean, crimes of violence should be punished and it seems to me, if he uses good prosecution skills, you evaluate the case before you put it up for indictment. You put it up for indictment And he doesn't have any.

O'Reilly (overtalks her last 6 words): OK. But you worked with this guy in trying to protect women and children.

GOESSLING: Yes.

O'Reilly: Is he interested in protecting women and children or is it just all about him?

GOESSLING: I have to say it's all about him. And I think one of the things that you should be outraged about is the fact that we have this one, single case that you've brought to light, which is so important. But, do you realize there are 700 backlogged cases in that Crimes against Women and Children unit alone ...

O'Reilly: Is that right?

GOESSLING: ... so we're talkin' about 700 victims waiting for their injustice.

O'Reilly: What's wrong with the Atlanta Constitution? Why are they carrying water for a system that's obviously chaotic and a man who obviously made a huge mistake here? Why are they carrying his water?

GOESSLING: The fact is the Atlanta paper has been very generous over the years for the incompetence of Paul Howard. I can't tell you why, but the information presented and the way it was presented certainly causes one to question that which you reported. However, the press statements alone should tell you that you were right on the money, like I said.

O'Reilly: But we're not ....

GOESSLING: Blunt force trauma to a five week old baby cannot be accidental.

O'Reilly: Right. But we are ...

GOESSLING: This is an intentional killing.

O'Reilly: Because of our investigation, there are other things that we need to clarify, which is why we did send out the autopsy to an independent - alright - so we're leavin' the door open. If we're wrong, we're ready to correct any kind of mistake. We've offered Mr. Howard our time. He, of course, hides under his desk!

GOESSLING: Right!

O'Reilly: But there's something very wrong in the city of Atlanta, when you have a D.A. like this, and a newspaper - the only newspaper of record - covering up for him. Really chilling. Miss Goessling, thanks very much. As I said, we will continue to investigate this story. [End of interview.]

According to Media Transparency the Southeastern Legal Foundation has received a total of $2,235,500 million in donations from Armstrong Foundation, Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc., Castle Rock Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Roe Foundation, Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation, Sarah M. Scaife Foundation and The Carthage Foundation.

From the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) site:

ELECTION TASK FORCE 2004
A project of Southeastern Legal Foundation

PURPOSE
To expose the hypocritical "big lie" of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) by identifying the ongoing flow of political money from individuals and groups who seek influence with federal elected officials and analyzing the quid pro quo achieved by said influence.

SLF seeks to educate the American electorate not only about the the ongoing flow of money from certain groups and individuals, but also about the dangerous influence of liberal organizations on the constitutional functions of government.  In light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding BCRA, SLF shares the grave concern of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who described BCRA and its effects on American government as "a sad day for freedom of speech in America."

BACKGROUND
Southeastern Legal Foundation, a plaintiff and co-counsel in the omnibus constitutional challenge against BCRA (McConnell, et al. v. FEC, et al.), is an effective public interest law firm and policy center engaged in ongoing watchdog activities at the federal, state and local levels.  SLF successfully pursued legal sanctions against former President Bill Clinton for lying under oath and obstructing justice in a federal lawsuit - marking the only substantive penalty received by Clinton during his tenure in office.  More recently, SLF exposed the money link between Middle Eastern/Islamic organizations with ties to international terrorism and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA).  The U.S. Justice Department is currently investigating the contribution of thousands of dollars to McKinney's campaign coffers.  As a result in part of SLF's investigation and public exposure of said contributions, McKinney was defeated for re-election in 2002.

Along with co-counsel, former Independent Counsel Ken Starr, SLF led a two-year litigation effort with more than eighty-four plaintiff organizations and individuals against BCRA, the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  In December 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the law, including bans on issue advocacy advertising during the election season and outright bans on so-called "soft money" given in unlimited amounts to national political parties.

While banning certain political speech and regulating or banning political contributions, BCRA exempts from regulation certain groups (such as American Indian tribes), and fails utterly to stem the flow of other forms of political money.

By shining the light of public scrutiny on such hypocritical aspects of the new law, SLF is working to achieve a critical mass in both public awareness and congressional action in response to that awareness - free speech in the political arena, particularly the right to openly criticize or support public policy and political candidates, should be protected by revisiting provisions of BCRA.  Equally important, SLF will take appropriate legal and policy steps to bring public scrutiny to the ongoing influence-peddling of various liberal organizations and their dangerous influence on the constitutional processes of government."

Press release from SLF:

"ATLANTA: The Southeastern Legal Foundation today warned University of Georgia President Michael Adams that adopting the recommendations of the Faculty Admissions Committee to reinstate race and ethnicity for admission consideration "creates a grave constitutional risk for a school administration that has been told not to do it by a federal appeals court."

"SLF participated in the successful 2002 federal lawsuit against UGA's race-based admissions policy, in which an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously struck down the university's admission program. SLF also participated in the two U.S. Supreme Court cases in 2003 dealing with admissions programs at the University of Michigan and the U of M School of Law. (Gratz v. Bollinger—the undergraduate case banning quotas, and Grutter v. Bollinger—the law school case upholding limited consideration of race for another 25 years).

"Even in the Grutter decision, which allowed for extremely limited use of race as a factor for admissions, Justice O'Connor made it clear that ‘racial classifications are … dangerous,'" said Shannon Goessling, SLF Executive Director. "That's why Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office made it clear that UGA was playing with fire when the committee recommended reinstating racial and ethnic considerations." Baker's office issued an opinion of UGA's recommended program in October, warning that the school must spell out a time limit for "diversity" goals, based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"The Gratz case and the UGA case were both on point—no quotas, or quota-like programs, for admissions—they're unconstitutional," said Goessling, an attorney. "The small but rapidly closing window for ‘diversity' purposes in the limited world of university admissions defined by the Supreme Court in Grutter, however, makes it clear that any new policy must be narrowly focused and must not harm merit-based admissions consideration."

"Goessling points to the 11th Circuit decision on the UGA program, which was clear on the message of ‘diversity:'"If the goal in creating a diverse student body is to develop a university community where students are exposed to persons of different cultures, outlooks and experiences, a white applicant in some circumstances may make a greater contribution than a non-white applicant," the Court said.

"Goessling also points out that SLF will be reviewing any new admissions program adopted by the university which grants special preference or consideration for non merit-based admissions for potential legal action."

COMMENT

This attack on Paul Howard is not random. I believe it is the first salvo in a carefully orchestrated campaign to prevent Howard from throwing his hat in the ring in 2006, perhaps as Attorney General, perhaps for a higher office. It seems to me to be a clear example of a supposedly impartial national news outlet taking sides and in consort with a representative of the Georgia Republican Party (Ms. Goessling), working hand in glove to either (a) overturn the outcome of an election through fomenting a recall election and/or (b) attempting to influence the outcome of a future state election.

No matter which way you cut it, it's "outrageous" as Mr. O is so fond of saying.


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