Lee Stranahan's "Fraud of The Week"

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In a BigJournalism.com post, Lee Stranahan -- the Huffington Post blogger who has been working with Andrew Breitbart on his Pigford story -- calls National Black Farmers Association founder John Boyd the "Fraud of the Week" and accuses ABC News of "media bias." Stranahan's primary rationale is that a 2003 story the network ran on Boyd didn't mention Pigford, the class action lawsuit for black farmers who alleged discrimination by the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately for Stranahan, the segment does discuss Pigford.

To be honest, I'm genuinely curious as to how something like this could have happened and am really looking forward to what I'm sure will be Stranahan's prompt correction and explanation.

Stranahan writes of the November 21, 2003, "Person of the Week" segment:

Perhaps you've heard of Pigford v. Glickman, aka the black famer's lawsuit. You've heard of it because Andrew Breitbart, Gary Hewson, Peter Schweitzer and others have been writing about it on the Bigs for months. But - did you hear ANY mention of Pigford in that Person of the Week story? Did the name Pigford even come up once?

This story was broadcast in 2003, according to the ABC News Site. Pigford was settled in 1999.

Wait a second; if Pigford was settled, why is ABC doing a story that makes it look as though Pigford never even happened?

I have to admit, when I read this I was a little disturbed. Yes, ABC's "Person of the Week" segment is meant to be soft news ("as soft as it gets," according to a 1997 New York Times article), not a detailed, in-depth report, but still, a report on a farmer claiming systematic racial discrimination by the government really needs to mention Pigford.

Then I realized that I had neglected to take the advice Stranahan gives at the top of his piece: "please watch the video first and don't skip ahead." And so I did. You can too. Make sure to pay special attention at around the 1:06 mark:

BOYD: The last name Boyd was a, was our slave name, given to us by the Boyd family, which was Miss Ethel and William Boyd is--was their names. I feel as though we earned the right to live in this country, we earned the right to farm in this country, and we earned the right to participate in these Federal programs.

PETER JENNINGS: In 1999, the Department of Agriculture pretty much agreed when it settled the largest class action civil rights suit in the nation's history. The department found that black farmers had to wait three times longer for loans and subsidies than whites. And black farmers were losing their land because they could not get the help.

BOYD: There's thousands of black farmers across the country who are still out here waiting diligently and in good faith that the government is going to send their check.

JENNINGS: But thousands of those farmers are not getting the help they expected from the settlement, and John Boyd aims to fix that if he can.

That "largest class action civil rights suit in the nation's history"? Jennings is talking about Pigford. It sure doesn't sound like ABC was trying to "make it look as though Pigford never even happened," does it?

(Incidentally, if Stranahan wants to try to defend his comments by pointing out that the ABC story discusses the lawsuit without using the word "Pigford," he's welcome to do so. It would be pretty pathetic, though, and still won't get around the "make it look as though Pigford never even happened" falsehood.)

While the purported lack of Pigford discussion is the foundation of Stranahan's attack, he offers a range of other attacks on the ABC News piece. Some are valid: Even a soft "Person of the Week" segment should have pointed out that Boyd himself had received a Pigford settlement. This strikes me more as incompetence than bias (Stranahan's error does too, for the record), but your mileage may vary.

But other complaints just don't make sense. For instance, Stranahan criticizes the segment for showing Boyd "shaking hands with" Rep. Maxine Waters "as though the two had just met," even though they had met before to discuss Pigford. In the footage in question, Boyd is shown greeting Waters with a handshake. I don't know about you, but greeting a U.S. representative with a handshake just seems like good manners, whether it's the first, second, or thirtieth time you're meeting them.

Stranahan also attacks ABC because he "is wearing his overalls and flannels" while meeting members of Congress, and thus "deliberately created a totally false visual narrative to trick their audience by having Boyd in his farmer costume throughout the entire video." I'm not sure why Stranahan thinks that ABC provided or had veto authority over Boyd's clothing.

ABC was covering Boyd's 17-day trip by mule-driven wagon from his farm to Capitol Hill. I assume he chose to take a wagon and wear overalls because he knew he would garner more media attention that way -- and the trip did, getting coverage from across the country. The only media bias there is the bias toward a more interesting story with decent visuals. Boyd would hardly be the first to discover that the media prefers such stories.

Stranahan concludes:

John Boyd knew what ABC was doing here. Maxine Waters and Dennis Kucinich were literally acting for the camera. Boyd played dress up. They did this all knowingly. It's because the CBC and the pro-Pigford lawyers use John Boyd like a puppet. They trot him out whenever they need to keep the Pigford scam from going off the rails and the press eats it up.

Let's be honest. That's just offensive.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Andrew Breitbart, Pigford, Lee Stranahan
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