Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Hillary Clinton helped free two Black Panthers accused of torturing and murdering Alex Rackley.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Variations: One version of the e-mail in circulation claims "This is proven true by SNOPES.COM". It's our guess that whoever included that bit was counting on folks to take that claim at face value and not instead check with this site, in that our article says the opposite, that the polemic is not factual but, rather, is false.
Origins: It's difficult for those who weren't around to experience the 1960s first-hand to fully understand the controversy that swirled around "radical" parties such as the Black Panthers. Certainly to many Americans they represented the very worst of that era's political movements: a group of hate-filled militants who felt their disaffection with the existing social and political systems justified anything required to achieve their aim of "revolution by any means necessary" (such as smuggling guns into a Marin County courtroom in an attempt to free Panther George Jackson, resulting in a shoot-out that killed a judge, two inmates, and Jackson's brother). To others, however, they were the only political group that truly represented a downtrodden and marginalized group of people who had been enslaved, discriminated against, and denied civil rights protections for hundreds of years; that sought to improve the condition of the poor by operating schools, opening medical clinics, and providing free breakfasts for ghetto children; and that had the courage to stand up to the brutality visited upon them by law enforcement acting in the service of a government and a society that sought to "keep them in their
In May of 1969, Black Panther founder and national chairman Bobby Seale (who had already been indicted for his alleged participation in demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968) made a trip from Oakland to
That several Black Panthers directly took part in the torture and murder of Alex Rackey is beyond dispute. But this piece isn't really about outrage over what the Black Panthers did thirty years ago; it's a political tract whose purpose is to discredit Hillary Clinton by associating her with the Black Panthers. Of the hundreds of people who played part in the Black Panthers'
So, exactly what connection do Senator Clinton and Mr. Lee have to the Black Panthers? The piece quoted above claims:
How in the world do you think that these killers got off so easy? Well, maybe it was in some part due to the efforts of two people who came to the defense of the Panthers. These two people actually went so far as to shut down Yale University with demonstrations in defense of the accused Black Panthers during their trial.We'll begin with the last part: Yale University was not "shut down" during the trial; classes were made optional when 12,000 Panther supporters swarmed the campus in protest, and the president of Yale University himself, Kingman
The above-quoted article also maintains:
How in the world do you think that these killers got off so easy? Well, maybe it was in some part due to the efforts of two people who came to the defense of the Panthers.Neither Mr. Lee nor Senator Clinton "defended" the Panthers in the legal sense implied here. Bill Lee wasn't a lawyer, or even a law student; he was simply another Yale undergraduate who had no involvement in the Black Panthers' trial. Hillary Rodham (as she was known then) wasn't a lawyer then, either. She was a Yale law student, and like many of her politically-minded fellow law students who saw the latest "Trial of the Century" taking place right in their back yard, she took advantage of an opportunity to be involved in a minor, peripheral way by organizing other students to help the American Civil Liberties Union monitor the trial for civil rights violations. In any case, her tangential participation in the trial in no way helped "free" the two Black Panthers tried for the murder of Alex Rackley: they went free because the state failed to sufficiently prove its case, and after several days of deliberation the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The charges were dismissed, and the state declined to retry either Bobby Seale or Ericka Huggins.
As for Warren Kimbro, the man who admitted to shooting Alex Rackley in the head, the reason he's not still in prison is that the government allowed him to plead to a lesser charge (second degree murder) in exchange for turning state's evidence against other Panthers; he was sentenced to life in prison but was released after four years.
Update: Versions of the e-mailed denunciation headed "Paul Harvey's 'The rest of the story'" began circulating on the Internet in June 2000. This header plus a comment at the end of the text ("And now, as Paul Harvey says, you know the rest of the story") caused some to believe Paul Harvey had read this piece (or a shorter version of it) on the air. Paul Harvey's people confirm he has never broadcast the Panthers and Hillary Clinton story.
Last updated: 24 January 2008
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