After launching what has now been conclusively shown to be an unfair and false attack on Shirley Sherrod, Andrew Breitbart is scrambling to justify his decision to post the deceptive video. He now says that his blog post -- which smeared Sherrod as racist -- was "not about Shirley Sherrod. It's not about Shirley Sherrod. I can say it 20 times. It's about the NAACP." In fact, there is ample evidence that Breitbart directly went after Sherrod.
And if his claim that the NAACP tolerates racism is based on the debunked claim that Sherrod's speech shows she is racist, doesn't his whole excuse fall apart? Well, Breitbart claimed on Fox News last night that the video proves there are racists among the NAACP because "the audience was laughing and applauding as she described how she maltreated the white farmer," and he argued that the audience did not "know that there was going to be a point of redemption" in her story.
On Good Morning America today, Breitbart again claimed that his video shows that "at an NAACP event, people are applauding racism." And he demonstrated:
In his initial post, Breitbart described the audience reaction as "nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement." And that was before we all had access to the full video and the proper context. Now, he says that the audience was "applauding" in approval of discrimination. In fact, Breitbart's claim that the audience was applauding as she "described how she maltreated the white farmer" is demonstrably false.
First of all, the full video shows that the audience did have reason to understand where Sherrod's speech was going and that her story was about the importance of moving beyond race. Before getting into the story about the "white farmer," Sherrod previewed the lesson that she learned:
[16:34] SHERROD: God is good. I can tell you that. When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people -- and to black people only. But you know God will show you things and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people --
AUDIENCE: All right. All right.
SHERROD: -- you know. The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm. He took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior to me -- I knew what he was doing.
Her story begins around 16:30 in the video. Contrary to Breitbart's claim, the audience does not applaud at any point during the story about her interaction with the farmer.
Nevertheless, media outlets are already uncritically reporting Breitbart's attempt to cover his ass. The New York Times reports:
"They're trying to make this about me and Shirley Sherrod. This is about the N.A.A.C.P.," he said by phone. He said that the civil rights group had "spent an inordinate amount of airtime trying to brand the Tea Party as racist" while tolerating racism itself.
The Washington Times wrote:
Mr. Breitbart, whose Big Government blog posted the video, said Tuesday that the point was the NAACP audience's reaction to Mrs. Sherrod's account of her past actions.
"This was not about Shirley Sherrod. This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party and this is showing racism at an NAACP event. I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired," he told CNN, adding that Mrs. Sherrod "should have the right to defend herself. But what you see on the video are people ... applauding her overt racism that she is representing."
And the Los Angeles Times reported:
Breitbart told CNN's "John King, USA" that releasing the video was "not about Shirley Sherrod."
"This was about the NAACP attacking the tea party, and this is showing racism at an NAACP event," he said.
How can these outlets actually repeat Breitbart's claim that this was "not about Shirley Sherrod," when it clearly was? Didn't anyone read what Breitbart had written? In his initial post on July 19, Breitbart claimed that the video is "evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee" and that Sherrod discriminated against a white farmer in her "federal duties" as the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development. The video itself also included text that said. "Ms. Sherrod admits that in her federally appointed position, overseeing over a billion dollars she discriminates against people due to their race." Breitbart then posted a tweet asking, "Will Eric Holder's DOJ hold accountable fed appointee Shirley Sherrod for admitting practicing racial discrimination?" After the USDA forced Sherrod out of her position in response to the deceptive video, Big Government celebrated with a post titled: "Racist Govt Official/NAACP Award Recipient Resigns after Big Government Expose."
Things quickly took a turn for the worse for Breitbart. Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Breitbart's video completely distorted the meaning of her remarks, and media outlets - aside from Fox News, which repeatedly aired the cropped video and called Sherrod a racist - began calling for Breitbart to release the full video. Breitbart was then forced to admit that he did not have the full video and that he had smeared Sherrod as a racist based on a three-minute clip that cuts her off in the middle of her speech, indeed in the middle of a sentence. CNN later interviewed the "white farmer" who Breitbart claimed Sherrod discriminated against, and he said her critics "don't know what they're talking about" and that Sherrod had done "her level best" to help him save his farm. With the full video now available, everyone can see plainly that the facts are basically the opposite of what Breitbart claimed them to be.
The whitewash began immediately. Big Government inexplicably criticized the Obama administration for believing and reacting to what Breitbart had called "video proof" of racism by a federal official. Glenn Beck and FoxNews.com also appear to be concealing Breitbart's failure and Fox News' own horrendous coverage.
And now Breitbart is trying to cover his outrageous smear of one woman by baselessly attacking a whole group of people as racist. Will the media comply?