Ben Rhodes, a former senior adviser in the Obama administration, was pummeled on social media recently after making a highly hypocritical statement.
Rhodes wrote on Twitter that his former boss used his presidential pardon power to “to give a second chance to people who deserved empathy, not racists who showed none.” Rhodes’ comments came after President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Arpaio, formerly known as “America’s sheriff,” needed Trump’s pardon because he had recently been convicted of criminal contempt after he disobeyed a federal judge’s order to halt a program in his department that profiled people based on their apparent ethnicity. He initiated the program to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
While Rhodes remembers Obama using his pardon powers only for people “who deserved empathy,” social media users quickly pointed out that reality paints a slightly different picture.
It is true that Obama pardoned or commuted sentences of drug offenders that were highly seen as unfair. But one of Obama’s biggest commutations was also one of his most controversial.
In one of the final acts of his presidency, Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a convicted terrorist. Rivera was a leader in a Marxist-Leninist militant group that used terrorism in the U.S. to pressure American lawmakers let Puerto Rico become an independent communist nation. The group committed more than 100 bombings in the U.S. and were responsible for many deaths.
Rivera was convicted in 1981. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison. He later had 15 years added to his sentence after he conspired to escape from prison. Former President Bill Clinton offered him clemency in 1999 on the condition that he renounced violence, but Rivera refused.
Social media users were quick to inform Rhodes of his apparent double standard.