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Geraldo Acquits Huckabee In Superficial, Softball Interview Re Clemmons

Reported by Ellen - December 7, 2009 -

For the record, I disagree with the “throw away the key” mentality usually displayed on Fox News. Usually displayed, that is, except when their own Mike Huckabee is the one under scrutiny for playing a part in the release of cop-killer Maurice Clemmons while in prison for a previous offense. And while I can even agree with Geraldo Rivera that Huckabee was not directly responsible for the circumstances that led to Clemmons being out on the streets, instead of in jail, the night he shot and killed four police officers in Washington over Thanksgiving weekend, there’s more to the story than just that. But when Huckabee appeared Saturday night (12/4/09) on Geraldo At Large, Rivera and Fox News reporter Doug Kennedy were more interested in absolving their colleague from blame than in enlightening the “we report, you decide” network’s audience about any of the larger, more significant issues the case raises. With video.

As News Hounds Alex and Hula posted after Huckabee appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, Huckabee has an extremely high record of commutations and pardons, more than all of the six surrounding states combined. Salon.com's Joe Conason noted, “The Clemmons commutation that (Huckabee) granted nine years ago is only one among several cases that raise serious questions about Huckabee's judgment… Huckabee granted mercy to prisoners whom he chanced to meet, to prisoners who had personal connections to him or his family, and especially to prisoners who were vouchsafed to him by the pastors he had befriended during his years as a Baptist minister and denominational leader. Among the thugs who benefited from his mercy was a robber who beat an old man to death with a lead pipe.”

That’s not to say that Huckabee’s decision in 2000 to grant clemency for Clemmons was necessarily ill-considered. Huckabee now says that Clemmons’ 108-year sentence was inappropriate for a 16 year-old with his criminal record and that it reflected disproportionate sentences for poor black men. But at the very least, Huckabee’s overall record merits attention along with the broader issues about sentencing and criteria for clemency and parole. Let’s hope Rivera raised some of those questions on another show that I’ve missed. But judging from Saturday night’s show, they were off the radar screen.

Rivera set the tone for the segment by showing a clip of Huckabee being peppered with questions from a CNN reporter. They were nothing that would have been out of place with a host interviewing Democrats on Fox News. But Rivera commented, “CNN definitely took a cheap shot at our friend former, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.”

Before talking to Huckabee, Rivera showed a report from Kennedy that Rivera said, "probes the case." In reality, Kennedy offered little more than a run down of the crime and the subsequent shooting of Clemmons, plus the implication of Clemmons' family members who helped him evade the law. There was nothing about the extensive role that the judicial system played in Clemmons' life.

In case we didn’t get the message, Rivera also said that Huckabee “has been attacked in a way that’s been extremely unfair… You know how we feel about you, Governor.”

Reporter Kennedy, presumably not part of Fox’s “opinion programming,” also did his part. “Mike Huckabee has been mistreated here.”

Huckabee said that given what he knew then, he would have made “exactly the same decision” and then went on to blame the prosecutor. Clemmons “would have still been in prison until the year 2015” as the result of another arrest in Arkansas, Huckabee said, but the prosecutor “failed to file the charges of parole violation and that’s when Clemmons got out and went to Washington State.”

Rivera said, “You were so far back in the chain of events, I don’t think there’s any causal connection – and I believe that with all my heart – between what you did and what Clemmons did.”

You can email the show at atlarge@foxnews.com.