The New York Times apparently has no ability to figure out what a “peaceful protest” looks like. In Monday’s print edition, reporters Nick Corasanti and Stephanie Saul were troubled by Trump supporters rallying near a polling station on Saturday (not rioting, not looting) while Virginians took advantage of early voting. The online headline deck of Monday’s print story read:
A group waving Trump flags and chanting “four more years” created a commotion at a polling location in Fairfax, Va. A county official said some voters and staff members felt intimidated.
The story began:
A group of Trump supporters waving campaign flags disrupted the second day of early voting in Fairfax, Va., on Saturday, chanting “four more years” as voters entered a polling location and, at one point, forming a line that voters had to walk around outside the site.
County election officials eventually were forced to open up a larger portion of the Fairfax County Government Center to allow voters to wait inside away from the Trump enthusiasts.
How dare those Trumpers “disrupt” a line of voters by aggressive flag-waving! The group did nothing wrong, which begs the question why this Times story even exists!
Election officials said that the group stayed about 100 feet from the entrance to the building and, contrary to posts on social media, were not directly blocking access to the building. But they acknowledged that some voters and polling staff members felt intimidated by what some saw as protesters.
But even with the paper’s own reporting debunking accusations that the rally blocked the entrance to the voting site, the falsehood was repeated in a reposted tweet.
Sean Rastatter, a vice chair at the Fairfax County Republican Committee who was at the polling location, said that he did not think any actions came close to voter intimidation, and that many of the discussions from members of the group were with journalists.
Bryan Graham, the chairman of the Fairfax County Democrats who was also at the polling center, saw it differently, writing on Twitter that “the Republicans are straight-up attempting to intimidate voters at the government center.”
The Times disparaged suburban homeowners who felt intimidated by “unarmed” protesters screaming threats at them after they broke into their gated community.
Corasaniti and Saul lamely attempted to make something “intimidating” out of the rally.
Some election rights groups said that the Trump group might have still crossed a legal line.
“In Virginia, the safe zone around the polling location is only 40 feet, but that safe zone is for campaigning and trying to change a person’s vote,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a voting rights group….
“To me, this went beyond campaigning and they should have been removed.”
In contrast, actual voter intimidation (as opposed to pumped-up Democratic allegations of such) during the Obama years was first ignored then dismissed by the Times. Remember the New Black Panther party voter intimidation case from Election Day 2008? Two members of the radical black separatist group, dressed in paramilitary gear, with one carrying a billy club, reportedly shouted racial slurs at white voters. The Obama administration’s Justice Department downgraded the incident.
When the paper got around to it (only because of a lawsuit by the outgoing Bush administration) legal reporter Charlie Savage was dismissive in a July 2010 story. Savage’s reporting leaned heavily on the “conservative” politics of those forwarding the charges, and the accompanying text box gave the case an odor of white racial animosity: “A white rights case was shunned, says a former federal lawyer.” Savage emphasized that the case is a “cause celebre” among conservatives, as if that automatically made it suspect.
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