JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s lieutenant governor is accusing Justice Department officials of “fanning the flames of racial division,” as the federal agency is criticizing Ferguson police for alleged racial biases following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Tuesday also asserted that the department was “staffed with Marxists and black radicals” and defended statements he had made a day earlier accusing agency officials of racism.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon declined to comment about Kinder’s statements.
The Justice Department recently cleared Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, who is white, of any civil rights violations for the Aug. 9 shooting. A department report said Wilson was acting in self-defense when he shot Brown after a physical struggle during which Wilson said the unarmed black 18-year-old grabbed for Wilson’s gun.
But the Justice Department simultaneously released a report citing widespread racial bias in Ferguson’s policing.
After Brown’s death, some witnesses said Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot. But the Justice Department report said there were “no credible witness accounts that state that Brown was clearly attempting to surrender when Wilson shot him.”
During an interview Monday on the conservative news outlet Newsmax TV, host Steve Malzberg suggested to Kinder that the sometimes-violent protests that followed Brown’s death were in response to a false premise of “Hands up, don’t shoot” that he said was promoted by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Kinder agreed and said Obama and Holder had joined in “incitement of the mob” and “encouraging disorder in Ferguson.”
Neither Kinder nor Malzberg cited specific comments by Obama or Holder.
The TV show host later asked Kinder: “Is there more racism in the Justice Department than there is in the town of Ferguson in the police department?”
Kinder responded: “There is more racism in the Justice Department than there is in any, yes, than anywhere I see in the St. Louis area.”
“It is the Eric Holder and Obama left and their minions who are obsessed with race while the rest of us are moving on beyond it,” Kinder added on the show.
Kinder told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he stood behind those statements. He said Holder appeared to pick sides soon after Brown’s shooting when he met with Brown’s family but not Wilson.
“The Justice Department has had an interest in fanning the flames of racial divisions since the first day Eric Holder took office. So has this president,” Kinder said.
Kinder, who attended Brown’s funeral, also said he frequently “goes into the urban core” and has fared better than many other Republicans in attracting votes in Missouri’s predominantly Democratic big cities.
While Kinder is next in line to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri’s governor and lieutenant governor don’t run as a ticket, and Nixon and Kinder seldom communicate.
Nixon’s spokesman Scott Holste declined to comment about Kinder’s remarks.