THE WRONG NBPP QUESTION…. In general, most legitimate news outlets have treated the right’s hyperventilating the phony New Black Panthers Party “controversy” as unimportant. The restraint is welcome — the rule usually is that whatever conservatives are worked up about necessarily must be taken seriously.

Of course, in this matter, it helps that a) the underlying accusation is transparently foolish; and b) there’s bipartisan agreement, even from Fox News contributors, that this is a non-story.

But the Washington Post has taken a slightly different tack. The paper ran an article on Thursday, which at least referenced the baseless nature of the accusations, but which nevertheless characterized the overwrought complaints as a “political bombshell.”

Today, the paper’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, who seems sympathetic to far-right media complaints with increasing frequency, argues the Post should have acted sooner.

Thursday’s Post reported about a growing controversy over the Justice Department’s decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The story succinctly summarized the issues but left many readers with a question: What took you so long?

As it happens, I had the opposite reaction. While the Post, at least the print edition, wisely ignored a story that no serious person finds credible, it eventually pointed to a “bombshell” that doesn’t really exist. The question isn’t, “What took the Post so long?”; it’s, “Why’d the Post cave to Fox News viewers?”

Alexander added, in reference to J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who’s doing his best to push the trumped up allegations:

If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed.

Too late; he already has been. More than once.

In reference to the article the Post ran this week, Alexander concluded:

Better late than never. There’s plenty left to explore.

Really? Like what? Observers from across the ideological spectrum have concluded there’s nothing left to explore, because there’s no real controversy here. This isn’t just the judgment of liberal bloggers; it’s the conclusion reached by conservatives who want to go after the Obama Justice Department over real issues, rather than racially-motivated nonsense.

The pattern here is a familiar one: “Fox News picks up a story from the conservative media, then attacks the ‘mainstream media’ for ignoring the distorted story.” Media outlets with professional standards need not play the game.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.