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The Spin Stops Where, Exactly? O’Reilly Pitches Soft Balls to Huckabee

December 1, 2009


On Monday’s O’Reilly Factor, Mike Huckabee made his first television appearance since serial felon Maurice Clemmons (allegedly) murdered four police officers on Sunday morning. Since the murders, the media have lambasted Fox News analyst and former Arkansas governor Huckabee for having commuted Clemmons’ life sentence back in 2000. I had been curious as to how Fox would choose to handle this story, given that Huckabee is directly involved in it and has his own show on Fox News.

On the one hand, I commend Huckabee for facing the music and confronting the matter in person. (HuckPAC released a written statement on Sunday.) He is, as O’Reilly notes, a “stand-up guy” for doing so. On the other hand, regardless of the defensibility or indefensibility of Huckabee’s decision to commute Clemmons’ sentence, Huckabee should be taken to task for lying about it and blaming the criminal justice system, which would have kept him behind bars for a very long time. That hardly constitutes “stand-up” behavior, although O’Reilly, it seems, would beg to differ.

First, Huckabee claims to not have been able to foresee that Clemmons would re-offend, when, in fact, not only did he already have a lengthy rap sheet, but he actually tried to commit several violent crimes prior to and even during his sentencing, which should have given Huckabee some indication of Clemmons’ future behavior.

“Well, Bill, first of all, I think the uh, the tragedy of this, if I could have known nine years ago this guy was capable of something of this magnitude obviously I would never have granted the commutation.”

Really? He had been convicted of six felonies. His lack of repentance and intent to re-offend were more than evident, judging from his courtroom behavior alone. The Seattle Times reports (hat tip: Michelle Malkin):

During one trial, Clemmons was shackled in leg irons and seated next to a uniformed officer. The presiding judge ordered the extra security because he felt Clemmons had threatened him, court records show.

Another time, Clemmons hid a hinge in his sock, and was accused of intending to use it as a weapon. Yet another time, Clemmons took a lock from a holding cell, and threw it toward the bailiff. He missed and instead hit Clemmons’ mother, who had come to bring him street clothes, according to records and published reports.

On another occasion, Clemmons had reached for a guard’s pistol during transport to the courtroom.

How could Huckabee have even considered the possibility that Clemmons wouldn’t reoffend? I doubt that Clemmons even considered that possibility.

Huckabee then blames the criminal justice system for his decision to commute Clemmons’ sentence:

The post-prison transfer board, the process…they recommended to me as governor for his commutation, which didn’t release him; it simply cut his sentence to forty-seven years.

Arkansas prosecutors repeatedly cautioned Huckabee against commuting the sentences of violent criminals, and Huckabee had a habit of blaming prosecutors for not working to keep criminals behind bars even as he commuted their sentences. The Arkansas Leader reported in 2004 (also via Michelle Malkin):

“I’m offended as a prosecutor and as a citizen. He can blame the prosecutors, but ultimately he’s the man responsible,” [Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry] Jegley says. “He’s the only one who can sign on the dotted line.

“All he has to do is look in the mirror and say, ‘I let (convicted rapist) Wayne DuMond go free who then killed at least once and probably twice.'”

Jegley says the governor ignores the will of the people when he reduces a life sentence without parole that was handed down by a jury.

“He has obviously disregarded the jury’s decision. It’s a crying shame that a sitting governor would be so insensitive to victims’ right and disregard the system,” says Jegley, who points to several clemency cases where felons went free and then committed more crimes.

Then, Huckabee lied about Clemmons’ sentences, saying that he was given 108 years for two crimes he committed when he was 16, when in fact, he was sentenced to 60 years when he was 18 after having been convicted of five felony charges which he racked up at age 17, for which he was sentenced to 48 years. So while Huckabee was honest about the length of the sentences, he lied about their number, the number of crimes Clemmons committed, and Clemmons’ age when he committed the crimes. But what are four violent felonies between friends? He was just a kid, so long as you fudge his age a bit.

Strangely, O’Reilly takes Washington state’s judges to task for not explaining why they let Clemmons back out on the streets time and time again.

O’Reilly: But the judges in, in Washington state, they knew all of his history from age 16 onward.

Huckabee: Yeah, by this point this guy’s a career criminal…

O’Reilly (interrupting): Right, he’s a career criminal.

Huckabee: …and escalating sense of violence and psychotic behavior, and no, there’s no, no explanation for why he was out on the streets.

O’Reilly: Okay, let me ask you this: most judges who do this kind of stuff, in our experience – and you follow the program, you know about Jessica’s Law and, and we hold the judges accountable – they will explain why they do what they do. They hide behind some kind of statute or this and that. I just think that’s terrible. Be like you. Be a stand-up person. Come in and say “this why I did what I did.” Am I wrong?

Huckabee: No, I think it’s important that people understand the process and the, the reasoning behind decisions. Sometimes it’s difficult and it’s complicated, but I think, for the most part, people can understand that you’re acting on what you know, not on what might happen out there in the future. This case with Washington judges certainly, uh, there was a pretty good, long history of adult behavior on this guy’s part.

O’Reilly: And two judges, two judges signed off on this crazy bail. Governor, thanks very much for being a stand-up guy. We appreciate it.

Had Huckabee not commuted a six-time felon’s multiple sentences he would not have been in a Washington judge’s courtroom getting sentenced for committing more violent crimes in the first place. Furthermore, Huckabee is somewhat notorious for doing exactly what O’Reilly accuses the judges of doing: refusing to explain his actions, which, as governor, he was legally required to do.

In addition, [Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry] Jegley, Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld and others have accused Huckabee of violating the state Constitution when he commutes sentences without explanation. The Constitution requires the governor to give reasons why he grants clemency to criminals.

“He doesn’t do it,” insists Herzfeld, who recently had a clemency overturned because Huckabee did not explain why he commuted a murderer’s life sentence.

I find it disappointing that O’Reilly would choose to whitewash Huckabee’s role in the story. He may very well not have known any better, but I tune in to the Factor for its well-researched segments and O’Reilly’s hard-hitting but usually civil interviews. He generally treats his guests kindly but fairly and does not let them off the hook the way he did with Huckabee.

Huckabee’s refusal to hold violent felons accountable for their actions led to the deaths of four police officers Sunday morning. The irony in O’Reilly’s refusal to hold Huckabee accountable for his decision to commute Clemmons’ sentence, along with those of 11 other murderers, should not be lost on us. The moral of the story is that we as a society – be it through the media, through our leaders, or through the justice system – must hold people responsible for their actions. O’Reilly is usually pretty good about doing just that, but in this case, he let Huckabee completely off the hook for his decision to commute Clemmons’ sentences, for lying about the facts of the case, for blaming the criminal justice system even as he singlehandedly undermined it, and for not explaining his decisions when he was legally required to do so.

The spin, it appears, did not not stop at O’Reilly’s desk last night.

  1. Carterthewriter permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:13 am

    It has become quite obvious to me that Bill has taken the position that his stature rivals no one else . He must realize the competition is wrought with lost souls, though.

    Recently, he has resorted to begging to sit in the oval office and dictate. Well, someone should, we all know that, but Bill, return to your roots. You’re beginning to make an ass of yourself.

  2. Paul permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:36 am

    I saw it. And the biggest thing, wasn’t the fact that Huckabee commuted his sentence. It was when he got charged with rape of a 12 year old, he only got $15,000 bail. He had 7 other felonies on his record, JUST IN WASHINGTON STATE. Not including the Armed Robbery and Theft in Arkansas. A judge gave him ONLY $15,000 bail and another judge signed off on it. I think mandatory NO Bail should be given in child attack cases. Child Rape, molestation, assault on a child, murder of a child. Who the **** are those 2 judges to say “Oh we gave him $15,000 bail because we didn’t see a threat” (theoretical saying) WHat!?! Would you give only $15,000 bail to someone like this with 7 other felonies on his RECORD not including armed robbery? NO! Why the hell did these two do it. This is completely ****ed up. This made be incredibly pissed when I heard that it was a child who got raped and he only got 15 grand bail. Complete bull.

  3. Paul permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:50 am

    I’m sorry if anyone got scared from my comment. I was really pissed yesterday, when I found that out. I had never been that pissed in a long time. Just needed to vent.

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      December 1, 2009 12:16 pm

      It’s okay; being pissed is usually all one can be on a daily basis, anymore.

      KathyShaidle mentioned men and model trains and I went off on the poor woman. It’s the times, my man.

    • F. Swemson permalink
      December 1, 2009 2:45 pm

      Carter’s right Paul;

      IMHO anyone who wasn’t outraged at this is the one who needs to apologize !

  4. Paul Cooper permalink
    December 1, 2009 1:18 pm

    I think there are issues with the Dumond case. I don’t think Huck is the one to blame for the Clemmons case if you look at all the facts. Too many Huck-haters are ready to throw the guy under the bus.

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      December 1, 2009 1:30 pm

      I don’t dislike the man, Paul. He has a lot of good ideas, but I jsut do not think he has the fortitude or dynamic personality traits we need to get this country headed in the right direction. He’s cabinet material, no question about it. I thought if McCain really got mad, he moight have one, but he didn’t, so he we are, writing our butts off.

      • Paul Cooper permalink
        December 1, 2009 2:34 pm

        fair enough.

  5. BailAmount permalink
    December 1, 2009 2:15 pm

    Paul, get your facts straight. O’Reilly got them WRONG.

    The bail amount was $190,000 ($150,000 from one case, $40,000 from another), he was able to pay only $15,000 to a bail-bonds place who fronted the rest.

    • F. Swemson permalink
      December 1, 2009 3:29 pm

      BailAmount (?)

      I’m afraid that’s totally irrelevant to Paul’s point, which is that he shouldn’t have been able to get out on bail in any manner whatsoever.

      The court knows that a defendant typically can get bailed out by putting up 10% of the bond… so the net effect of their decision is that they let him go free for $15,000.

      No matter how you look at it, it’s still a travesty of justice !

      • Bailamount permalink
        December 2, 2009 2:40 am

        Sorry, you, Paul, and O’Reilly are WRONG.

        The bail amount is the bail amount. The total bail amount for both cases was $190,000, NOT $15,000.

        Paul said, “It was when he got charged with rape of a 12 year old, he only got $15,000 bail.” which is NOT FACTUAL. His bail for that was $150,000.

        • Paul permalink
          December 2, 2009 5:27 am

          Bailamount, would YOU GIVE ONLY $15,000 or even $150,000 for bail? How come assault cases are $300,000 or even more bail. What’s worse rape or assault. Rape victims are A LOT more traumatized than assault victims (not saying that assault victims aren’t victimized). There shouldn’t be bail for child attackers. Had this guy had no bail on the rape charge. This might not have had happen. And he would have been convicted. The prosecution would talk about his 8 other felonies (7 in Washington State) and the jury would see that and convict him. Attacks against children make jurors just cringe so badly, it’s insane.

          • Bailamount permalink
            December 2, 2009 8:45 am

            What I want, and what the law allows are two different things. My post was not making that call.

            What I was commenting on was truth. The important thing when reporting news is to always be FACTUAL.

        • F. Swemson permalink
          December 2, 2009 10:28 am

          You obviously didn’t read my original comment.. Try once more & tell me where I challenged the details of the bail…

          My whole point, and Paul’s of course, is that he should NOT have been allowed to get out of jail AT ALL.

          Bail should not have been granted !

          • Bailamount permalink
            December 2, 2009 10:47 am

            Paul challenged the details of the bail. He said: “It was when he got charged with rape of a 12 year old, he only got $15,000 bail.” Which is NOT factual.

            O’Reilly’s statement also wasn’t factual. If Huckabee wasn’t a Fox News employee, Bill would have grilled him. Instead of jabbing him with the truth, he slapped him with a soft taco!

            • Paul permalink
              December 3, 2009 4:50 am

              But still, Bailamount, he should not have ever got bail for raping a 12 year old.

              • Bailamount permalink
                December 3, 2009 12:32 pm

                There are lots of despicable offenses that people should not get bail for.

                But the fact of the matter is unless it is a capital offense, bail is presumed as a right.

                • F. Swemson permalink
                  December 3, 2009 2:13 pm

                  The key word being “presumed”

                  If it was part of the legal code, then you’d have an argument.

                  As it is now however, you don’t.

  6. Paul Cooper permalink
    December 1, 2009 2:44 pm

    Here’s Huck’s response:

  7. Paul permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:00 pm

    If a child is the victim, no bail. That’s what I’m saying.

  8. 2maxpower permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:21 pm

    maybe this will keep huck out of the next presidential elections. I read his (Huckabee’s) letter and it isn’t the same story as I am hearing here.

    I believe this one!

  9. Kenneth Gareau permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:20 pm

    Still need investigation! I heard today, not confirmed, that the sources used for some of the “Conservative” whipping relied upon past political rivals of Gov. Huckabee and other news sources not ever shown to be conservative freindly or tolerant.

    It also seems to me that if the facts of the Arkansas procedures were followed by the governor as he outlines those procedures. Where is his culpability , when he was still going to be in jail? The actual parol granting his release was an opportunity to deny that parol release based upon any new or old evidence available. The governor had no active role, according to him, in that process. Why aren’t we pissed more about the ‘system” than apparently we are, or the parol board, and focusing mostly on Huckabee commuting a sentence which still left the guy in jail.

    “Inquiring minds would like to know”… before developing conclusions which may be on shifting sand!

    • JE Tabler permalink
      December 2, 2009 10:35 am

      There may be some truth to that. The most damning criticisms of Huckabee came from prosecutors whom Huckabee had thrown under the bus. They’re not really political rivals of his, but he’s not exactly on their good side, either. Still, I can’t imagine that they would just fabricate 4 felonies committed by a teenager just to smear Huckabee. Furthermore, I regard Michelle Malkin as one of the more reputable journalists working today, and her sources seemed pretty credible to me, being local newspapers which have been around forever.

      Nobody comes out of this looking good; not Huckabee, not the prosecutors who failed to file the appropriate paperwork on time (and Huckabee’s story checks out on that one), not the parole board, not the Washington judges.

      • Kenneth Gareau permalink
        December 2, 2009 11:47 am

        Your last comment fits with my we need more investigation point. Also NO ONE during the “Commutation Process” in Arkansas spoke up in the negative according to Huckabee. Wouldn’t that be a great place to begin looking for answers as well as confirmation that the governor is giving us the straight gooop?

        • Whaveter permalink
          December 2, 2009 3:51 pm

          Huckabee was too lax with his pardon/clemency power.

          Don’t forget about Wayne Dumond. Huckabee broke state law by meeting in secret with the parole board on behalf of Dumond.

          Huckabee to Dumond”My desire is that you be released from prison.”

  10. Thinkaboutit permalink
    December 2, 2009 5:14 pm

    Regarding the number of crimes committed as a youth, it seems to me that there are often multiple charges that arise from a single incident. Therefore, when Huckabee says the original 108 year sentence was the result of two crimes, he is accurate if by “crimes” he means two distinct incidents. Yes, multiple felonies were committed during each incident, but most likely Clemmons intent was to only commit a single crime each time. Just like if a drunk driver decides to get behind the wheel once, but then is in an accident killing 5 people, he would have committed 5 felonies, but only made the stupid decision to drive drunk once.

    As for the Rape charge, remember that this was still just a charge and not a conviction. Therefore, the decision about whether to grant bail would have to consider something about the strength of the evidence and whether he posed a future threat to the child. From the reports I have read about that incident, Clemmons was acting strangely and had forced his entire family to undress while he preached to them about the end of the world. I have not read any reports about him trying to engage in any actual sexual activity and it is not clear if his actions were sexually motivated (perhaps he believed all clothes would burst into flame at the end and being naked was the only way to survive unharmed). Thus, while I agree that what he did was wrong, it’s not clear that there was a strong case for rape. Furthermore, this would seem to be a case where he may have suffered a temporary mental breakdown and at the later time after evaluation by psychologists was no longer a threat. Under these circumstances, I could understand how a reasonable judge could grant bail.

    Of course, I am disturbed that his previous criminal history seems to have not been considered. I don’t know whether that is the fault of the Judges or of the Laws of the State of Washington, which the Judges are obligated to enforce. I am also bothered that he was released from Arkansas despite parole violations and poor behavior in prison due to paperwork failures on the part of the Arkansas prosecutor’s office.

  11. alaskanfisherman permalink
    December 2, 2009 7:21 pm

    Assemble the circular firing squad: Sarah! Shoot that bear! Mitt! Deny health care! work on a party and a platform for 2016.

  12. Will Marshall permalink
    December 3, 2009 4:27 pm

    Let’s see…Huckabee is a commentator on Fox, and O’Reilly has a show on?

    • F. Swemson permalink
      December 3, 2009 4:32 pm

      So ????


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