ABC News Inviting Breitbart 'Boggles The Mind'

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

ABC News's decision to allow Andrew Breitbart to take part in its online election night coverage has drawn harsh criticism from several veteran news observers and journalism ethicists, who contend Breitbart's history of lies and deceit make him unqualified.

Those who cover the media and others who train future journalists say Brietbart's past questionable activities -- including his posting of an altered video that led to the infamous firing of former federal official Shirley Sherrod -- can only hurt ABC's image.

"I find it stunning, absolutely stunning that someone who is clearly a total partisan and has a reputation that is checkered is asked to be a commentator on a network," said Hub Brown, associate professor in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University. "It boggles the mind."

Kevin Smith, chair of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered similar views.

"I am not making personnel decisions for ABC News, but if I was I wouldn't make this one," he said. "Given all of the people they have the opportunity to choose from and the resources to tap into, I am a little surprised. What is he going to bring to the mix?"

Smith adds: "I am surprised ABC News wants to potentially damage its credibility by having him involved in their coverage. Looking at the guy's track record, you have to wonder why you want to be part of someone with such a checkered past - It is a risky move on ABC's part."

Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, questioned ABC's logic.

"How does this qualify this guy to be a political commentator? Would Jayson Blair be able to hang out and offer his personal opinion," Deggans said, referring to the disgraced former New York Times reporter. "I don't see why ABC would give him a place for it at this time. This is a case of rewarding bad activity."

Charles Davis, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, called Breitbart a propagandist: "That makes him a giant number removed from being a journalist. It seems overtly partisan."

Al Tompkins, who teaches ethics at The Poynter Institute, also showed surprise. "I don't see a lot of value in it," he noted. "The question is do you undermine the trust we have in the franchise?"

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