It’s scary-black-man déjà vu all over again at Fox News. This morning, as the polls opened across the country – and the New York Times’ Nate Silver gave President Obama a 92% chance of winning the election - a Fox News Alert warned, as Steve Doocy put it, that “some critics” say that a member of the New Black Panther Party “standing guard” outside a Philadelphia polling place “looks like intimidation, like in 2008.”
Well, if it is like 2008, then the only thing to fear is how Fox News may misuse and distort the incident. An excellent article in Main Justice, a website that reports on the DOJ, explains with great clarity and specificity just how Fox teamed up with GOP operatives to politicize - in an especially racial context - the Obama administration's decision not to make a federal case out of the inconsequentially semi-thuggish behavior of two black men acting as poll watchers in a district with 34 whites in a precinct of 970. Nearly two years later, Main Justice noted:
“No voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation. The complaints have come from white Republican poll watchers, who have given no evidence they were registered to vote in the majority black precinct.”
Doocy didn’t mention which precinct the NBPP “guard” was at but chances are it’s the same majority black precinct. In 2010, the NBPP was there again, this time without incident. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Judge of Elections Lugina Robinson as complaining, “The media is still blowing it out of proportion... There hasn't been any static and turnout has been great. He's not bothering anybody."
Doocy and Fox seemed determined to fear monger and the evidence be damned – or hidden. As a lower-third banner misleadingly referred to the man as a member of “Black Panthers,” (when that group has disavowed any association with the New Black Panther Party), Doocy said,
A member of the New Black Panther Party standing guard outside a polling place in Philadelphia. Hmm. The organization claims they are monitoring the 2012 election but some critics say that it looks like intimidation, like in 2008. And in an election that is virtually tied, every vote counts.”
Guest Peter Johnson, Jr. not only advanced the “scary black man” meme but added the “Obama administration didn’t prosecute because they favor black people” meme that was at the heart of Fox’s original “controversy.” Johnson said that the black man in the video, who mostly stood with his hands folded in front of him, was in “some kind of semi-military pose.” He continued, “We know that the New Black Panther Party was not prosecuted based on what happened four years ago and that became a big, big controversy. …If someone stands at the poll in a way that appears to be intimidating, it is intimidating.”
And if it isn’t intimidating, you can count on Fox doing its best to make it so - especially if it can make political hay in a swing state. Except when they're for intimidation and not against it.