Comedian Jon Stewart on Monday said what most in the liberal media continue to deny: as it pertains to the Shirley Sherrod affair, Fox News snookered no one.
Even more surprising, the "Daily Show" host claimed conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart "may be the most honest person in this entire story."
In a lengthy segment about the controversy, after haranguing the Obama administration's handling of the affair, Stewart moved to what the NAACP said when it retracted its initial condemnation of Sherrod (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Shirley Sherrod's now-infamous March speech before an NAACP audience is recognizable to practicing Christians as a "testimony." That's the spin that Syracuse journalism professor and former Washington Post staff writer R. Gustav Niebuhr brought to Newsweek/Washington Post's On Faith feature in a July 26 Under God blog post:
As she said to members of the Georgia NAACP back on that March day, she spoke as the daughter of a murdered black farmer, victim of a racial crime whose author was never convicted. That allowed her to talk about how, through her experiences with the financially hard-pressed white farmer in 1986, she came to believe a divine agency was at work in her life, teaching her.
"God helped me to see that it's not just about black people--it's about poor people. And I've come a long way. I knew that I couldn't live with hate, you know."
That's the key statement in her speech. In traditional Christian terminology, it's called a testimony.
The New York Times went to town on Andrew Breitbart and Fox News on Sunday and Monday, rehashing the racial controversy over the Shirley Sherrod tape and suggesting conservative media outlets were guilty of "tilting the field," blowing "obscure or misleading stories...out of proportion" and presenting "political opposition research" as news. Hmm. Isn't that what the New York Times has been doing to conservatives for years?
In the last couple of days, Andrew Breitbart, a conservative Web site operator, has been called a liar, a provocateur, a propagandist -- and even a race-baiter. But he says he knows who the true race-baiters are: some Democratic activists.
Andrew Breitbart highlighted the edited video clip of Shirley Sherrod on one of his Web sites. "It's warfare out there," he says.
It was one of Mr. Breitbart's Web sites, BigGovernment, that highlighted the heavily edited video clip of Shirley Sherrod, a black official at the Department of Agriculture, apparently saying that she had been biased against a white farmer she was supposed to help. Ms. Sherrod's full speech actually demonstrated the opposite, but do not expect Mr. Breitbart to be embarrassed.
Stelter later evinced a convenient concern for journalist credibility for "when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion and when what amounts to political opposition research is presented as news." Stelter must have missed the Times's hit pieces on John McCain alleging an affair and suggesting his birthplace made him unqualified to serve as president, or the paper's sabotage of two successful Bush-era terror-fighting programs it disapproved of.
In the past six days, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting some liberal media member claiming that Fox News was responsible for Shirley Sherrod's dismissal from the Agriculture Department.
So obsessed with this idea were the folks on PBS's "Inside Washington" Friday that the lone conservative on the panel Charles Krauthammer had to defend FNC's honor like a knight in shining armor protecting a princess from a gang of marauding Huns.
Two days later, CNN's Howard Kurtz and Politics Daily's Matt Lewis did their darnedest to convince Salon's Joan Walsh of the facts - unfortunately to no avail.
Getting fed up with the stupidity from his colleagues on the left, Mediaite's Steve Krakauer Sunday evening tried to once and for all put this matter to rest:
On Friday’s Political Capital, Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson – formerly of CNN and Time magazine – left the impression that FNC coverage of the Shirley Sherrod video was partially responsible for her firing, prompting the National Review’s Kate O’Beirne to clarify that FNC did not show the video until after the USDA employee’s resignation. After host Al Hunt asked, "did it also say something bad about the so-called right-wing echo chamber or Fox News?"
Carlson responded: "Well, once the tape was on Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hammity, Hannity, it got out there, and, you know, I was shown it on live TV, and I was snookered as the NAACP said they were." After also faulting the NAACP and the Obama administration for acting too quickly, she branded Sherrod a "hero" and "the model of the civil servant."
O’Beirne then informed viewers: "Margaret, let the record show the videos didn’t appear on Fox News till she’d already been fired, so it’s sort of hard to blame them for the incredible overreaction."
Four months after leading Face the Nation with uncorroborated allegations from left-wing bloggers about racist and homophobic outbursts by anti-Obamacare protesters, spread in an effort to discredit President Obama’s opponents, CBS’s Bob Schieffer cited the Shirley Sherrod case to propound on the superiority of his fact-checking “Old Media” over the careless “New Media.”
In his commentary on Sunday, Schieffer boasted of how “we still call people involved in a story to get their side; editors fact check; and we never publish or broadcast anything unless we think it's true.” In contrast, he lectured, “last week, we saw what can happen when it's done the other way. A partisan blogger with an agenda -- not a journalist -- put the heavily edited, totally out of context, now infamous soundbite of Shirley Sherrod on the Internet. Some of the cable folk picked up the story, and demanded the woman's ouster.”
Schieffer scolded: “No calls to those involved, no checking of any kind -- just throw it out there and leave it to the woman to defend herself.” Very much like Schieffer left the conservative citizens he smeared at the top of the March 21 Face the Nation:
On The O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday night, host Bill O'Reilly apologized to Shirley Sherrod "for for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context." But then he quickly turned to NBC and MSNBC: "And then there is NBC News howling with left-wing indignation." He ran clips of Matt Lauer saying the whole story was "garbage" and Rachel Maddow sneering:
MADDOW: Just like the fake ACORN controversy, Fox News knows that it has a role in this dance. That's not new. That's not actually even interesting about this scandal. Fox does what Fox does.
O'REILLY: Which is kick your network's butt every single night, madam. And you have to be kidding with this fake ACORN scandal stuff. Unbelievable. Do you live in this country?
Maddow responded on her own show on Thursday night: "A host at the FOX News Channel named Bill O`Reilly accuses us of, quote, 'howling' with left-wing indignation over the Shirley Sherrod affair. We respond with subdued, dignified barking and yipping – next." Maddow flagrantly claimed that the ACORN scandal was a fake:
UPDATE AT END OF POST: Walsh responds, claims this isn't what she said!
Joan Walsh on Sunday said former USDA official Shirley Sherrod is allowed to say anything she wants about racism -- including calling Fox News and Andrew Breitbart racist -- because her father was killed by a white man.
Discussing last week's controversy on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Salon's Editor-in-Chief actually claimed, "The woman's father was murdered by a white farmer, and there were witnesses, and the white justice system never found the murderer guilty."
"She's entitled to talk about race any way she wants to."
When Matt Lewis of Politics Daily asked incredulously, "Any way she wants to," the sparks began to fly (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Picking up on Shirley Sherrod’s allegation Andrew Breitbart “would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery” and “he'd like to see all black people end up again” in slavery, ABC’s Jake Tapper, during his last Sunday as interim host of This Week before the show goes to Christiane Amanpour next week, expressed astonishment she’d be offered a job building racial harmony:
This woman's been offered a job by the Agriculture Department as a Deputy Director of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And she's saying Andrew Breitbart wants to return to the days of slavery? Now, you can think what Andrew Breitbart did was reprehensible, irresponsible, unfair and a total smear. Does that justify saying he wants us to go back to the days of slavery?
Earlier in the roundtable, Sam Donaldson equated Fox News hosts with Joe McCarthy and yearned for a Joseph Welch “have you no decency” moment, demanding: “Who are these people that they should pay attention to and be afraid of? Who’s Glenn Beck, I mean, who’s Bill O'Reilly? Who’s Bret whatever his name is?” Donaldson recalled how FDR proclaimed: “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” So, the retired ABC News veteran advised: “President Obama, don’t be afraid of them. Take ‘em on and let the people judge.”
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean on Sunday accused the Fox News Channel of being racist.
With the opening subject of "Fox News Sunday" being last week's controversial termination of Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod, Dean said, "I think Fox News did something that was absolutely racist. They took a, they had an obligation to find out what was really within the clip."
Dean continued, "They have been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this, this business, and Sotomayor and all this other stuff...The Tea Party called out their racist fringe, and I think the Republican Party's got to stop appealing to its racist fringe."
That apparently was all host Chris Wallace could stand, for he struck back and struck back hard beginning with, "I know facts are inconvenient things, but let's try to deal with the facts" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Charles Krauthammer on Friday scolded Gordon Peterson, the host of PBS's "Inside Washington," for blaming Shirley Sherrod's termination on Fox News.
As he introduced the first topic of the evening, Peterson said, "Which brings me to the story of ousted Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod who was let go on the basis of a single piece of internet video that was edited out of context, posted on a conservative website, picked up on Fox News, and bought lock, stock and barrel by the Obama administration."
When Krauthammer got his turn, he went right after Peterson saying, "Speaking of apologies, perhaps you ought to apologize for saying that Fox News had her on the air before the administration had fired her" (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
Conservative author Ann Coulter was Rick Sanchez's guest on the prime time edition of "Rick's List" Friday, and the sparks were flying.
After showing a clip of Coulter earlier in the week claiming that Andrew Breitbart was set up with that partial video of Shirley Sherrod speaking at an NAACP function in March, Sanchez asked, "Look, doesn't Breitbart deserve to lose his credibility for this?"
This wasn't edited to make it look like she was discriminating against a white farmer. She was admitting that she was discriminating against a white farmer...It wasn't a doctored tape. It wasn't an edited tape. It was an excerpted tape.
When Sanchez replied, "You're playing games. You're playing semantics," the battle was on (video follows with transcript and commentary):
In all of its Shirley Sherrod coverage this week, National Public Radio never managed to interview a conservative guest on the subject (other than a few tossed-in audio clips of Andrew Breitbart), although NPR never landed a Sherrod interview, either, despite her whirlwind tour. On Wednesday night's All Things Considered news program, anchor Michele Norris interviewed Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, who predictably scorned the right wing's "Fox obsessions" and "notorious smear artist" Andrew Breitbart. This judgment might be questioned, considering Alter wrote in 1996 it was a "weak case of media malfeasance" when his own magazine's sleuthing about the authenticity of medals spurred an admiral's suicide.
Norris offered Alter only softball liberal questions, allowing him a comfortable platform to promote his pro-Obama book The Promise while he disparaged the conservatives:
NORRIS: Let's set aside the specifics of the Shirley Sherrod case for just a moment and look at what this episode perhaps reveals about the culture of the White House and how it deals with race, and also the culture of the media and how it looks to, in some cases, exploit race for ratings.
For two days in a row on her noontime news hour, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer worried aloud about the White House bowing to the wishes of the conservative media on the Shirley Sherrod case, describing it as "towing to right-wingers."
"In some ways, it makes it look like the White House is kowtowing to right-wingers here, Mike," Brewer told MSNBC correspondent Mike Viqueira Wednesday as she was addressing the Shirley Sherrod case and what the White House's role was in her firing. The next day, after discussing the apologies by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilisack, Brewer asked the same question.
"So what does it say then about how conservative cable controversies influence the White House?" Brewer asked liberal Washington Post editorialist Jonathan Capehart.
Should there be a "gatekeeper" regulating internet bloggers? In the aftermath of the Shirley Sherrod incident, that's what CNN promoted on July 23.
Anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts discussed the "mixed blessing of the internet," and agreed that there should be a crackdown on anonymous bloggers who disparage others on the internet.
"There are so many great things that the internet does and has to offer, but at the same time, Kyra, as you know, there is this dark side," Roberts said. "Imagine what would have happened if we hadn't taken a look at what happened with Shirley Sherrod and plumbed the depths further and found out that what had been posted on the internet was not in fact reflective of what she said."
Rick "I play it down the middle" Sanchez didn't disappoint during the first prime-time edition of CNN's Rick's List on Thursday, as he brought his liberal bias against Fox News to the program. When guest Dan Abrams of Mediate accused the anchor of "doing an opinion-based program" on Fox News's coverage of the Shirley Sherrod story, Sanchez denied this and added that he wasn't being ideological [audio clips available here].
The CNN anchor began his criticism of his network's competitor eight minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour, focusing on Fox News's coverage of the Shirley Sherrod story. Sanchez's focused on Fox News's separation between their news operation and their opinion programming, such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity's shows, as he gave his version of the timeline of how the network apparently covered the story:
NBC's Matt Lauer brought on two liberals, former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, publisher and editor of the leftist The Nation magazine, on Friday's Today show, to dissect the Shirley Sherrod "saga" as viewers were treated to an attack on the "right wing media which peddles fears and slanders." In a segment titled "Race In America, Lessons Learned From The Shirley Sherrod Saga" Vanden Heuvel dominated the conversation as she didn't attack just Andrew Breitbart but conservative media as a whole as she railed "Are we gonna be a media system which is vetting and holding standards or are we gonna be bullied as a country by a right wing media which peddles fears and slanders to really destroy President Obama's presidency?"
However, Vanden Heuvel is probably the last one to be preaching about standards as Lauer failed to mention that several of The Nation staffers, at JournoList, criticized journalists for doing any journalism at all about Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The New York Times on Thursday picked through the sordid saga of Shirley Sherrod, fired from her post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture after a clip of a speech to a gathering of a rural chapter of the Georgia NAACP appeared to show her hostility toward a white farmer seeking assistance.
A full version of the speech shows that was a set-up to Sherrod's tale of racial reconciliation, though there are questions of how far her racial reconciliation really goes. That same speech reveals Sherrod accusing Republicans of being racist by opposing Obama and Obama-care, and Sherrod has gone on to accuse Fox News of using her as a "pawn" for its own reactionary, racist purposes.
Fox News didn't run a report on the controversy until after Sherrod had resigned under White House pressure and after the NAACP had issued a press release condemning Sherrod. Yet in "For Fired Agriculture Official, Flurry of Apologies and Job Offer," reported by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Shaila Dewan, and Brian Stelter, and written by Stolberg, the Times chose to blame a cabal of "right-wing Web sites" and Fox News for fostering the Sherrod scandal which led to her dismissal. As if Fox forced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do its right-wing bidding without ever actually running a single story on Sherrod until after her firing, when the point became moot.
The White House and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized profusely and repeatedly on Wednesday to a black midlevel official for the way she had been humiliated and forced to resign her Agriculture Department job after a conservative blogger put out a misleading video clip that seemed to show her admitting antipathy toward a white farmer.
By the end of the day, the official, Shirley Sherrod, had gained instant fame and emerged as the heroine of a compelling story about race and redemption.
On Thursday’s The View on ABC, as the group hosted former USDA official Shirley Sherrod to talk about her experience of being fired by the Obama administration, after co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck got her to address comments she had made before the NAACP in which she accused Republicans of challenging President Obama on health care reform because he is black, co-host Joy Behar went on a tirade charging that the Bush administration "did not give a damn about poor people and everybody knows it," and suggested that President Bush was also indifferent to the black population as she declared that Obama "does give a damn about black people." Behar:
But I wanted to support what Shirley said before, which is that during the Bush administration, you had tax cuts for the wealthiest, and he did not, that whole administration did not give a damn about poor people and everybody knows it. That's why Obama was elected in the first place. I mean, even now, the Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment insurance, and yet they're okay with tax cuts to the wealthy. Let me finish! So, now you have Obama in office, and he does give a damn about black people.
It wasn't exactly a media-friendly question. CNN co-anchor Kiran Chetry asked Shirley Sherrod on Thursday's "American Morning" if she wanted another news outlet to be shut down entirely – Andrew Breitbart's website, to be exact. "Would you like [Breitbart's] site to be shut down?" Chetry asked Sherrod. Sherrod answered yes, "that would be a great thing."
In lieu of Sherrod's recent travails, CNN co-anchors Chetry and John Roberts brought the embattled former USDA official on-air for an interview. They briefed the audience on Sherrod's rocky background in the race-embittered South, which included having a cross burned in her family's yard and her father being murdered by a white man who was never indicted for the crime.
Then the anchors turned to Breitbart's publication of the edited video showing Sherrod delivering her remarks to NAACP members. Chetry asked Sherrod if she would consider a defamation suit against Breitbart, to which she said she would. Sherrod said later that she would like to help President Obama understand better what some African-Americans have gone through in terms of racially-motivated abuse.
Then the dialogue morphed from that of a sympathetic interview into a full-fledged shower of praise for Sherrod.
How could the White House have screwed up so badly in the case of Shirley Sherrod, the Georgia USDA official who Wednesday received an apology from the Obama administration (through Robert Gibbs and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack)?
Sherrod was the victim of a smear by the right-wing agent provocateur Andrew Breitbart and his fellow travelers at Fox News. (Yes, that side has adopted some Leninist tactics, as conservative antitax activist Grover Norquist has admitted over the years.) They took a two-and-a-half-minute clip from Sherrod's address to the NAACP and used it to depict her as a black racist who discriminated years ago against a white farmer. It turns out the farmer thought Sherrod had been a terrific help, and a full review of Sherrod's speech suggests that, far from being a racist, she had honestly (and successfully) worked through the complex racial preconceptions we all carry around in our heads.
Later in his post, Alter added more spin and half-truths by noting that:
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday lobbied Shirley Sherrod to agree that Barack Obama is trying to improve race relations. The fired USDA employee first asserted she needed more assurance from the President. Stephanopoulos prodded, "But, don't you think that President Obama's committed to that?"
The former Democratic operative turned journalist followed up with another conciliatory question: "You were quite harsh on the White House in the early days as this story unfolded. Are you satisfied now that they've done everything they can, that the President's done everything he can? And that he's fully behind you?"
An indignant Anderson Cooper railed against Andrew Breitbart with an uncharacteristic angry commentary at the top of his eponymous CNN program yesterday, calling the conservative activist a "bully," likening him to a "weasel," and accusing him of posting a video which was "clearly edited to deceive and slander [Shirley] Sherrod."
Admitting he has never met Breitbart, Cooper preached, "Watching him try to weasel his way out of taking responsibility for what he did to Ms. Sherrod today is a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse."
After pointing out that Breitbart should have apologized for posting an out-of-context video that made Sherrod, a black woman working at the Department of Agriculture, appear racist toward white farmers, Cooper dismissed the publisher of BigGovernment.com as a ideologue who will never own his mistakes: "Today, Mr. Breitbart could have just apologized, said he was wrong, but he didn't. Bullies never do. And nor do ideologues in our divided country." It's strange that Cooper would demand honesty in our discourse and then suggest he's not one of those "ideologues." As if he never snarkily attacked "teabaggers."
Radio listeners and cable viewers, rest assured -- Ed Schultz is on the side of the angels when it comes to integrity, he strenuously reminds us.
The liberal radio host and MSNBC action hero spent much of his radio show yesterday venting about the Shirley Sherrod uproar and denouncing Andrew Breitbart and Fox News for their alleged role in Sherrod's abrupt firing.
Here's a holier-than-thou Schultz proclaiming his own purity (click here for audio) --
SCHULTZ: What we have here is a manufactured story, cooked up and promoted by the right wing that work across the street, supplied by a hate merchant, Breitbart, and Hannity, sold as a racial hate story and clearly a White House that overreacted without all of the facts. It is so unlike President Barack Obama to act like this.
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill discussed the firing of Shirley Sherrod with left-wing Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, who used the opportunity to slam conservatives: "...there's unfair pressure on the Obama administration, Mr. Obama himself, from, I think, the far right wing, which perceives black gain at the expense of white security."
Dyson used the phrase "right wing" a total of eight times throughout the five-minute segment. He lamented how the White House "caved into duress and stress from the right wing" and later pushed the false claim that Fox News had pushed the Obama administration to fire Sherrod: "And it does show that Andrew Breitbart and other right-wing bloggers have an intense power, this is focused at Fox News, that then forces the mainstream media to pay attention and the White House itself got roped into this."
At one point, Dyson remarked: "...it's not just a matter of 'oh, those right wing guys over there are horrible,' there's liberal enlightened racism as well." Hill responded: "The NAACP initially jumped on this and said – and condemned – condemned Sherrod as well. So, I mean, this is coming from all sides. This is not just a right wing issue or a left wing issue." Dyson admitted that he thought the NAACP acted "dishonorably," but quickly moved back to conservatives: "...why do we take the word of a right-wing media on the issues and practices and behaviors of people in the broader mainstream? I think we have to be very careful here."
UPDATE (3:20 PM): A couple of quotes below the fold demonstrate just how ideologically diverse critics are who note that Fox played no direct role in Sherrod's resignation. Pundits from the Washington Post and National Review weigh in.
Shirley Sherrod placed the blame for her ouster at Fox News's feet. Hardly surprising. She's a liberal (former) member of a liberal administration. More surprising, given the clear preponderance of facts contradicting this meme, is that much of the media has followed her lead.
Ironically, while a number of mainstream media outlets claim that Fox News is responsible for getting Sherrod to resign, Fox's first call for a resignation, made by Bill O'Reilly just before 9:00 pm on Monday, came roughly an hour after Sherrod had actually resigned.
In other words, Fox News exerted no meaningful pressure on the administration to take any specific actions with regard to Sherrod before the administration took those actions on its own accord. FoxNews.com had run a story earlier (no longer available on its site) displaying Breitbart's video and reporting what were then assumed (erroneously, it turns out) to be the facts of the situation - Sherrod had acted in a condemnable, racist manner.
Even though I as a pro-life blogger know I battle on the right side of history, on a day-to-day basis I sometimes don't feel like a victor. The fight seems so uphill, with money, political power, and MSM all against us.
So the following July 21 Politico story about what bloggers on the Left think of us was enlightening. Every time I get a peek into the other side's view of us I realize once again that they're paper tigers.
Also of note is the Left's view that Obama has clipped his agenda thanks to us, when we think his actions thus far demonstrate he is the most liberally radical president ever.
Jonathan Capehart is the early frontrunner to win my Obama Parrot of the Week, the dubious award I hand out on my local TV show to the media member most wantonly toeing the White House line.
On today's Morning Joe, the Washington Post editorialist, trying to suggest the White House was not involved in the firing of Shirley Sherrod, offered a strained theory of how Sherrod misunderstood what she was being told by a USDA official about the White House wanting her gone.
But when Willie Geist asked the obvious question, Capehart's house of cards largely crumbled, forcing Jonathan to beat a hasty tactical retreat. It's actually quite amusing: do check out the video.
Exhibiting an extreme case of the media euphoria over Shirley Sherrod’s vindication, moments before Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appeared before the cameras CNN senior political analyst David Gergen gushed to Rick Sanchez:
I have to tell you, Rick, I don't want to put her on too high a pedestal. I don't think she would want that. But I kept thinking about Nelson Mandela as I heard her story, because he had to overcome the same sort of hatred on both sides. And he became this larger-than-life figure and I think we all loved him and revered him because he was able to grow like that. And there is that quality about her story.
48 hours without a job just like 27 years in prison. And how did she experience “hatred on both sides?”
UPDATE at end of post: Glenn Beck skewers Olbermann for this pathetic rant!
Keith Olbermann interrupted his much-needed vacation Wednesday to surprise his few viewers with a "Special Comment" about the forced resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod.
Quite predictably, his greater than twelve minute tirade largely focused on Fox News and Andrew Breitbart -- the latter repeatedly referred to as "scum" as well as a "pornographer of propaganda" -- who he claimed "assassinated" Sherrod.
After starting his rant by pompously comparing the former USDA official to Alfred Dreyfus, the French artillery officer falsely accused of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, the "Countdown" host tore into almost everyone on the planet (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):