Fox News, the Black Panthers, and the same old pattern

Mediaite's Steve Krakauer has a post up asking: “Will DOJ Black Panther Case Whistleblower Story Break Mainstream?” He's referring to the allegation, popular among talk radio hosts and right-wing bloggers, that the Obama Justice Department dropped voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party because the black president and the black attorney general are unfairly biased towards black people. Fox News' Megyn Kelly has made the story her own this week, conducting an “exclusive interview” with former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams, who claims that politics motivated the DOJ to drop the charges.

There are many reasons not to trust Adams on this one. He's a longtime GOP activist who was hired to the Bush-era DOJ by Bradley Schlozman, a political appointee who was ultimately found to have improperly politicized DOJ hiring. Also, Adams' interview with Kelly consisted mainly of unsubstantiated hearsay and conjecture. What's more, the Bush-era DOJ that Adams worked for declined to pursue charges against the Minutemen in a 2006 voter intimidation case based on nearly identical circumstances.

But Krakauer wants this story to be covered more widely: “So far, the story has not been discussed on FNC's cable news competitors or any of the broadcast networks. When we return from the July 4 holiday weekend, that very likely will change - and it should.” Why does he think it should be covered? Because Fox News is making a big deal of it.

We're seeing the reemergence of a very familiar pattern.

1. Right-wingers shout loudly about bogus story.

2. Fox News picks up bogus story, reports on it incessantly.

3. Right-wingers and Fox News start complaining that “liberal media” are ignoring bogus story.

4. Other outlets are shamed into covering bogus story, mini-frenzy ensues.

5. Pundits credit Fox News for “being ahead of the curve.”

6. Responsible media outlets determine bogus story is bogus long after damage is done.

7. Repeat.

Everybody remembers what happened with ACORN, right? Or “Climategate”? Or Bill Ayers?

“Because Fox is doing it” is no reason to cover a story. If anything, it's a warning to be skeptical of the story itself.