With mere weeks to go in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina between Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and Thom Tillis (R), things have gotten very ugly in Fayetteville, where cars at a predominantly black church were papered with leaflets featuring a photograph of a lynching, accompanied by a threat of impeachment against President Obama. The leaflet says, "Kay Hagan Doesn't Win! Obama's Impeachment Will Begin!"
Beneath that text, the flyer reads "Not endorsed by any candidate. Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Cumberland County." The background photograph is from the 1920 lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie in Duluth, Minnesota.
Fayetteville Observer reporter Paul Woolverton tweeted a photo of the flyer yesterday, along with what I thought was a pretty major assumption:
At least one other reporter, from WRAL in Raleigh, agreed that the provenance of the flyer wasn't really all that obvious. The thing looks as much like a racist iteration of actual GOP threats to impeach President Obama as anything else. Woolverton explained his assumption:
Of course, the flyer is designed in such a way that if it were distributed on cars at a white church, it would definitely be seen as an appeal to racism, not an appeal to rescue Barack Obama, and at least one attendee of the church didn't see it that way either:
(Church member Dawn) McNair, 39, said she was confused by the image on the flier and whether it was meant to scare her into voting or frighten her away.
The handbill could also be an attempt to implicate Hagan supporters in a heavy-handed campaign tactic. So far, no further information about the group has been unearthed. Whatever the flyer's origin, it is now being investigated by the Fayetteville Police and the Secret Service:
The Secret Service is investigating the distribution of a political flier that appears to have a photo of a lynching in the background.
"We are investigating this as a criminal matter," said Glen Kessler, assistant special agent in charge of the Charlotte field office of the Secret Service. He would not say if it was being treated as a hate crime or a threat to the president.
Since the Secret Service doesn't generally investigate hate crimes, it's safe to say their interest in the flyer also indicates doubts about its intent. Whichever way you look at it, if the Republican Party weren't so deranged in their eagerness to impeach President Obama, and so appealing to racists, this flyer would not exist. Here's hoping someday it won't.