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Huckabee and O'Reilly Spin Clemmons Story In The "No-Spin" Zone

Reported by Guest Blogger - December 1, 2009 -

Guest Blogged by Hula (Additional research by Alex)

Huckabee's Waterloo? On Monday, November 30th, Mike Huckabee appeared on "fair and balanced" Bill O'Reilly's Factor to gang up on Arkansas and Washington State judges over the parole of violent convicted felon Maurice Clemmons, who was the only suspect in the shooting dead of four police officers in a Washington State coffee shop on Sunday. With Video.
Update: Clemmons was killed this morning in a confrontation with police in Seattle.

Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas(1999-2007), appeared in the "No Spin Zone" on Monday night to spin the story about a convict to whom he granted clemency in 2000, after which the parole board of Arkansas released him from a long sentence in prison. The man, Maurice Clemmons, was being sought for the past two days with a murder warrant in connection with the deaths of 4 Lakeview, Washington police officers who were shot dead in a coffee shop south of Tacoma, near McChord Air Force base. The assailant walked into the coffee shop and, according to a witness, was asked what he would like to drink, after which he drew a gun and shot down his vicims, 3 men and 1 woman in cold blood. Those killed were identified as Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Gregory Richards, 42.

Governor Huckabee issued a statement on his website, blaming the criminal justice systems of the states of Washington and Arkansas for the murders. Clemmons had been due to remain in an Arkansas prison until 2015 before being eligible for parole. What Huckabee failed to mention in his statement was that he had granted clemency to Clemons in spite of the fact that he already had a record of violent felonies and disturbing behavior while in prison. According to the Seattle Times,

In 1990, Clemmons, then 18, was sentenced in Arkansas to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property, according to a news account in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Newspaper stories describe a series of disturbing incidents involving Clemmons while he was being tried in Arkansas on various charges…When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property… The crimes were committed when he was 17… Clemmons served 11 years before being released.
News accounts say Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence, citing Clemmons' young age at the time the crimes were committed … over the protests of prosecutors. "This is the day I've been dreading for a long time," Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Pulaski County said tonight when informed that Clemmons was being sought for questioning in connection with the killings

In 2004, the Arkansas Leader noted that Huckabee had granted over 700 commutations and pardons – more than all of the six surrounding states combined; the final tally was 1033. (See chart here)

Huckabee went on air on the Factor with Bill O'Reilly to try to shape perceptions and deflect his responsibility for granting Clemmons the clemency which ultimately ended in his release in 2004. O'Reilly had come prepared to blame two judges in Washington State as part of his ongoing crusade against “activist judges”, (see here, here and here for examples of Bildo’s blusterings on this topic) Huckabee was understandably happy to enable him. O'Reilly claimed twice that Clemmons was released on $15,000 bail, and that the judges were to blame.

Here is a sample of the spin the story received on the O'Reilly Factor:

"Just a week ago...this guy was released on a fifteen thousand dollars bail. An incredibly low number for the crimes he has been accused of." Here O'Reilly is flat-out lying, and Huckabee does not correct him once. How could O'Reilly get this number wrong? He couldn't. He lied, claiming that the judges set bail at that level. And Huckabee agreed with the lie. The fact is that Clemmons posted $15,000 with a bail bondsman - who then posted bail of $150,000 to release Clemmons from prison where he was awaiting trial on child rape charges, with seven additional felony charges pending in Washington state.

Here O'Reilly starts in with his usual attack on judges, showing them four times in the segment, between shots of the murder suspect:

"We contacted the judges, but they would not return our phone calls, which is not very smart; they will be held accountable." This sounds like a threat to me. How can he hold two judges accountable to appear on his show? Perhaps he will send his producer/stalker, Jesse "Weenie" Waters, after them? O'Reilly will continue to blame them, of course, in order to deflect the spotlight from Huckabee and further indulge his own outrage at judges who don't think the way he does and, worse, have the unmitigated gall to refuse to answer to Big Bildo.

O'Reilly asked Huckabee why he let Clemmons out, and Huckabee used the 20/20 hindsight excuse: "Well, Bill, first of all, I think the tragedy of this, if I could have known nine years ago that this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously I never would have granted the commutation."

Yes, it is safe to say you cannot see 9 years into the future. But then again, granting clemency does involve predicting with confidence that the prisoner will not be a threat to society down the road, some thing Huckabee could not have done if he had reviewed Clemmon's files with any care.

"It's sickening; the two people in this country that I value the most are soldiers and police officers, because they are the only thing that are standing between our freedom and total anarchy."

Really? We are inclined to total anarchy? Not much faith there, yet he had faith enough in the goodness of a convicted felon with a record of violence in custody (see court document here to grant him clemency. How, then, could he not apologize for his actions resulting in the release of a dangerous prisoner into society to kill those four officers? He failed to apologize to their families. Is this as sincere as he makes it out to be?

Here Huckabee deflects responsibility:

"He was sentenced to 108 years for 2 crimes when he was 16...they recommended to me as Governor, for his commutation. It didn't release him, it simply cut his sentence to 47 years. That would give him parole eligibility. That was the commutation. I'm responsible for that, and it is not something I am not particularly happy about at the moment.

"At the moment". The moment when he is seeing his presidential dreams going down the tubes?

"We didn't have any information from the prosecutors", but did he request any? How could he commute a sentence without talking to them? In reply to a “challenge” from O’Reilly, Huckabee claimed that he had requested information from all relevant departments but that “we didn’t have any notification from the prosecutors” and that “the only official that we have a record of receiving notification from is the judge, who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board.” Could your claim that you have no other records, Huckster, have anything to do with the fact that you destroyed the hard drives of over 100 computers used by the Governor’s office on your way out? Or are you lying flat out about having requested the information? Prosecutor Larry Jegley says he never received any such request from Huckabee’s office on this case. Far be it from O’Reilly to ask such a tough question on a segment he calls “Factor Investigation”!

More questions than answers remain here. It appears Huckabee is claiming Clemmons deserved to be let off from his sentencing, that the judge and parole board recommended it to him, Basically, it is a “hey it wasn't my idea, I was talked into it” defense. But doesn't a Governor have the responsibility to take everything into account, and weigh his decisions carefully with the public welfare in mind? Why does Huckabee need to make his defense on Fox News, on a right wing political pundit show like O'Reilly's instead of holding a press conference? Huckabee appears to care more about his political future and assigning blame then accepting responsibility for his actions as a Governor and in turn apologizing to the victims family and friends, and not doing so on a TV show where it will be seen and spun to millions of potential voters (and where Bildo can use him to boost his ratings).

The best he can do is: "I'm responsible for that, and it is not something I am not particularly happy about at the moment." and to blame the judges who granted Clemmon's bail.

Alex adds:

Maybe it was Clemmons’ erstwhile Christian faith which melted Pastor Huck’s heart. According to the Seattle Times

In another instance, Clemmons was accused of gathering his wife and young relatives around at 3 or 4 in the morning and having them all undress. He told them that families need to "be naked for at least 5 minutes on Sunday," a Pierce County sheriff's report says.
"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus.

Now there’s a man who loved the lawd so much he wanted his family as nekked as Adam and Eve in the garden in the sight of God every Sunday, and even pretended to be him. What a guy. And apparently, he played to Huck’s sense of Christian forgiveness in his appeal for parole, writing that “he prayed Huckabee would show him compassion", "had changed his life since ‘the angel of death has visited and taken away my dear sweet mother,” and that he came from "a very good Christian family" and "was raised much better than my actions speak ..." He wrote,
I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family's name ... I have never done anything good for God, but I've prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I'm humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.

As this article in Salon points out, Huckabee was played. Apparently, the word had gotten around the prison that Huckabee was soft on convicts who claimed to have been "born-again"; apparently, many of his acts of mercy were granted on the basis of appeals by fellow Baptist preachers and by prisoners' claims renewed Christian faith.

IOKIYAC*, Huck? One has to wonder how many of the pardons were granted to those who had “found Jesus” in prison, and conversely, how many of the prisoners he put to death were unrepentant sinners in Huckster's eyes.

(*It's OK If You're A Christian)