Media Still Getting It Wrong About Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod
As someone who was one of the best fighters against the left-wing media hegemony, Andrew Breitbart was also frequently victimized by lazy reporters who didn't bother to report correct information about him. This was a particular problem for Andrew because he was such a target for liberals making up lies which got repeated so often, they've become widely accepted as truth.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the media haven't stopped repeating lies about Breitbart even after his untimely passing. Contrary to much of the reporting about him today, Breitbart did not falsely represent Shirley Sherrod, former U.S. Department of Agriculture director of Rural Development in Georgia in relaying a video of her discrimination against white applicants for a farm subsidy program in 2010.
Before listing the false reports against Breitbart on this issue today, let's look at the facts. While there were a couple of minor things he did incorrectly in reporting about Sherrod, on the balance, the charge, advanced by many liberals including former conservative David Frum, that he selectively edited her remarks to take her out of context is false:
Now that the dust is settling in the mess involving Shirley Sherrod, the former U.S. Department of Agriculture director of Rural Development in Georgia who made controversial comments regarding race and class in a speech before the NAACP, a few things stand out that are worth remarking on:
The first is that blogger Andrew Breitbart in his initial post about Sherrod was incorrect in stating that the actions she described in her story took place while Sherrod was an employee of the federal government. He also should have been more clear that it was the NAACP's cheering of her initial racist sentiments that was his primary target.
Breitbart also should have done better to put Sherrod's previous racist behavior in the past with his writing but to impute, as David Frum does, that the full clip told "exactly the opposite of the story Breitbart had wanted to tell," is patently false considering that Breitbart did in fact state that in the end Sherrod's "basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help."
That Breitbart has been blamed for people not reading his work is really one of the most absurd instances of liberal bias in recent memory, especially since no one has ever proven that Breitbart was the one who edited the clip in question to take out Sherrod's spoken account of realizing that discrimination was wrong. To my knowledge, no one ever asked Breitbart who edited the clip down, something which his critics ought to have done rather than spread baseless innuendo about him. The video segment which he posted of Sherrod actually includes her statement that she helped the white farmer.
Instead of doing some actual reporting on this, what liberals have done instead is blamed Breitbart for their own rash behavior. The NAACP, which hosted the event at which Sherrod spoke, had the opportunity to read his description of her recanting of racism and also had the actual full tape of her remarks, rushed to condemn Sherrod's initial racism. Later, it reversed course and began bashing Breitbart. Ditto the Obama Administration which forced her to resign without paying attention to her confession and reversal.
Unfortunately, even to this day, this unjust smear against Breitbart has been perpetuated in the press. Here's CNN host Howard Kurtz spreading misinformation as he was interviewed minutes ago during CNN's daytime coverage:
I interviewed him several times, and he was a passionate guy who was able to use the internet, mostly, to drive a very conservative message, to embarrass liberal targets, including Congressman Weiner, as you mentioned. And had he not had a tendency to go too far on occasion, I think he would be remembered more as a successful warrior on behalf of causes on the right.
But in the example of Shirley Sherrod, who your viewers may recall, he had posted an incomplete, edited video that made her appear to be saying racist things when her message exactly was the opposite. Not only did he do that, but he never really apologized for it. And that's the reason, I think, that he actually leaves behind a mixed legacy.
Of course, Breitbart did not need to apologize because it was not he who neglected to mention her recanting.
Video of Kurtz being interviewed by CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux is below:
Kurtz's CNN colleague Kyra Phillips also repeated the smear, asking conservative blogger Erick Erickson about the false idea:
"The Shirley Sherrod story. He caught a lot of flack for that because of the way he edited that and it turned out he was editing it to take a certain angle, but when you had a chance to talk to Shirley Sherrod and see that entire speech that she gave, she was portrayed unfairly."
The Associated Press, most widely read news source in the world, also pushed the false storyline in its report on Breitbart's death:
Breitbart was at the center of two video controversies in recent years — one that led to the firing of an Agriculture Department employee over an edited video of what appeared to be a racist remark, and another that embarrassed the community group ACORN when workers were shown counseling actors posing as a prostitute and pimp.
Breitbart is known for disseminating an edited video that showed an Agriculture Department employee making what appeared to be racist remarks.
Sherrod, who is black, was fired from her job as Georgia state rural development director in July 2010 after the video surfaced. She is seen telling a local NAACP group that she was initially reluctant to help a white farmer save his farm more than two decades ago, long before she worked for USDA.
Missing from the clip was the rest of the speech, which was meant as a lesson in racial healing. Sherrod told the crowd she eventually realized her mistake and helped the farmer save his farm. She has since filed a lawsuit against Breitbart.
Yahoo News reporter Dylan Stableford is also pushing the false Sherrod story:
In 2010, though, Breitbart's credibility was burned after his website posted video excerpts of a 40-minute NAACP speech by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod that appeared to show her making racist comments. However, Breitbart drew fire when the speech was published in full, showing that selectively edited video had taken the remarks out of context--but not before Sherrod was fired. (The White House later apologized for dismissing Sherrod, a longtime USDA official, and Sherrod sued Breitbart for defamation.)
Thanks to Matthew Balan and Matt Hadro for transcripts and video of the above CNN segments.
Ironically, one of the few members of the press to get the story straight regarding Breitbart and Sherrod was MSNBC's Chris Matthews, normally, a notorious conservative hater.