This afternoon in a Hot Air blog post, Ed Morrissey wrote:
[Former USDA official Shirley] Sherrod and others can complain about Fox News and the editing of the tape, but two points should be remembered. First, Andrew Breitbart made it clear to me last night that this was the entirety of the speech he had in his possession. He also wants to find the whole speech and is trying to get it.
Are you kidding me?
In his post yesterday -- headlined "Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism - 2010" -- Breitbart claimed to have "video evidence of racism" on Sherrod's part. He said it showed her describing "how she racially discriminates against a white farmer," and referred to it as her "racist tale." The piece was illustrated with a literal "race card."
According to Breitbart:
In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from "one of his own kind". She refers him to a white lawyer.
It soon became evident that there was something fishy about the heavily edited video - even conservative bloggers questioned its sudden ending and wondered what the full context might reveal, while nonetheless saying that they trusted Breitbart.
Throughout the day, the story has unraveled. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published this morning, Sherrod said that the clip had been ripped from context, leaving out "the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with him and his wife." Sherrod reiterated her statements on CNN's American Morning.
Later in the day, the farmer's wife called in to CNN, calling Sherrod a "friend" and praising her for having "helped us save our farm."
Meanwhile, we pointed out that Breitbart's suggestion that Sherrod was discussing actions that she recently took as an Obama administration official was flatly false.
All day, we've been asking when Breitbart was planning to release the full tapes. Now, it looks like he may never have had one. If what Morrissey says is true, Breitbart tried to destroy the life of a largely unknown Obama administration official and called her a racist, and he didn't have the full context to back it up. As Erick Erickson just tweeted, "I'm hoping there is more to the video of Shirley Sherrod, because otherwise it seems like the right just got the scalp of a penitent lady"
The sad kicker: The first sentence of Breitbart's smear of Sherrod was "Context is everything." But he never bothered to get context of Sherrod's comments. He simply didn't care. He wanted a scalp, got one, and took a curtain call.
It should go without saying, but if this is true, it really should end for all time the media's willingness to play along with Breitbart's fact-free witch-hunts.
UPDATE: In an interview with TPMmuckraker, Breitbart confirms that he doesn't have the full video:
"I don't have it," Breitbart told TPMmuckraker in an interview. Breitbart said his source sent him just the edited clips at first, but is in the process of sending the full video.
Breitbart said he'll post the full video, if he can get permission from the video production company who filmed it for a local NAACP chapter. He also maintained that he didn't edit the clip and that it was sent to him already edited.
Ok. So an anonymous source sent Breitbart these heavily edited clips, and without bothering to question whether those clips had been taken out of context, Breitbart posted them on his website and claimed that they proved that she was a racist. And now, after she has been smeared in public and forced to resign, he's looking for the full video.
But don't worry, according to Breitbart, the full video doesn't matter - it "speaks for itself," and her comments are "conveying a present tense racism in my opinion."
I repeat, the first sentence of Breitbart's first post was "Context is everything."
Behold conservative journalism.