CBS Grills Breitbart on Sherrod Issue; Casts Doubt on His Credibility

On Tuesday's Early Show, CBS's Erica Hill pressed Andrew Breitbart over the Shirley Sherrod issue, highlighting how he "never apologized to her." Hill and reporter Joel Brown noted the "multi-million dollar defamation suit" Sherrod filed against Breitbart and turned to a journalist who touted how the blogger is "very defensive about his credibility and...realizes that he has these strikes against him."

Brown's report preceded the anchor's interview of the conservative at the bottom of the 7 am Eastern hour. The correspondent trumpeted how "right-wing commentator Andrew Breitbart has six political websites, whose goal is to quote, 'hold the mainstream media's feet to the fire.' He certainly got their attention when he posted this now-infamous picture of Congressman Weiner on BigGovernment.com seven days ago."

After recounting how the New York Democrat began by "claiming his Twitter account was hacked" and denying any connection to the photo and then "admitted that was a lie," Brown played his first sound bite from Ken Vogel of Politico, who contended that "Breitbart has an ability not just to break news, but to insert himself in the news and really drive a conversation with him at the center of it. Not only did his website get credit for breaking the story, he made himself a central component in the story."

The CBS reporter then delved into the Sherrod controversy and played the second clip from Vogel, who played up the apparent damage the issue caused to Breitbart's credibility:

BROWN: This isn't the first time that Breitbart's been involved in a political scandal. Last July, he posted excerpts of a speech made by U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod that appeared to have racially-charged undertones. Sherrod was subsequently fired. Breitbart was then accused of taking Sherrod's words out of context. He later posted the entire speech. Sherrod was offered her job back, and has now filed a $13 million defamation suit against Breitbart.

VOGEL: Andrew Breitbart is very defensive about his credibility and about his track record, and he realizes that he has these strikes against him. And so, he is actively trying to show that he is a reliable news source and this will help him.

Speaking of track records, the Politico writer Tweeted on June 1 a slanted statement referencing a charge from the far left that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was somehow behind the Weiner picture revelation: "Know who's probably loving #Weinergate? Clarence Thomas. In fact, given his porn affinity, I'm surprised Weiner hasn't blamed the Justice."

During her interview, Hill didn't raise Shirley Sherrod's name until the second half of the interview, but certainly hounded him about the issue:

Andrew Breitbart, BigGovernment.com; & Erica Hill, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgHILL: I do want to ask you...about Shirley Sherrod. Your site posted that video. There's been a lot of discussion about how the video was edited....and I know you've waited on that. But you're now facing a multi-million dollar defamation-

BREITBART: It's not a $13 million suit. That's misinformation-

HILL: It's a multi-million dollar suit.

BREITBART: Well, I don't think they actually stated the amount of money.

HILL: You've never apologized to her, from what I found. Correct me if I'm wrong. You said you felt sorry for her. Did that experience change in any way how you do business?

BREITBART: You know, the media has been waiting for a moment for me to fall on my face and they- you know, especially after the ACORN story, which went against the narrative that Barack Obama's ACORN was this, you know, vaunted, wonderful organization. And I was prepared for a moment that they would exploit to try and take me down.

What's interesting is last week, while this story was coming out, Chris Matthews, my critic- he does not like me. He does not like my politics. When Joan Walsh of Salon tried to bring up the Sherrod story to try to derail it, to try to change the subject, he said, no, I've looked at the video. I've read the article. Nobody's read the article. Nobody's looked at the video that he put out there and he kept in the part. He kept in the part that the media says that I didn't keep in, the redemptive angle. So when the media does its work and looks at my 1400-word piece, that was an attack on the NAACP's false attack on the Tea Party, they will see that I, again, will be vindicated in this lawsuit.

HILL: But my question to you was, did going through all of that, did it at all change the way, when you approach a story- for example, when you were sent this information on Congressman Weiner-

BREITBART: Oh yeah-

HILL: Did it- does it change at all the way you go about things?


BREITBART: Yeah, I've got to be honest with you: you have to dot your I's and cross your T's. I know that I'm going to be under an incredible level of scrutiny because I am who I am. I have a controversial reputation. So I go out of my way to dot my I's, cross my T's. When you do a story, and if you talk to any news producer, when you put out a story of that level of controversy, you go out of your way because you- your career could be over and your publishing empire could be gone in a day.

By contrast, NBC's Matt Lauer didn't raise the Sherrod controversy during his inteview of Breitbart earlier in the hour on the Today show. It should be pointed out that only days earlier, on the June 2 edition of The Early Show, CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes spotlighted how "supporters of Weiner note that it was right-wing blogger, Andrew Breitbart, who broke the story." On Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, Cordes also cited the conservative blogger's supposed "history of taking Democrats out of context and smearing people" as the reason for CBS's hesitance in covering the Weiner story.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center