Breitbart's Sherrod narrative unravels

››› ››› BROOKE OBIE

Based on what appears to be selectively edited footage, Andrew Breitbart falsely suggested that Shirley Sherrod said that, in her former position with the USDA, she had discriminated against a white farmer. In fact, Sherrod's statements in the video corroborate her statement that the story she was discussing is 24 years old. Moreover, Sherrod says that the video took her remarks out of context to omit that she was actually telling story about her work to get "beyond the issue of race."

Breitbart strongly suggested Sherrod was discussing actions she took as a federal official

Breitbart: Sherrod's "federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions." In a July 19 blog post on Big Government, Andrew Breitbart strongly suggested that Sherrod discriminated against a white farmer in her capacity as the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development:

We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.

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.

Sherrod's racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups' racial tolerance.

Video proof: Sherrod's interaction occurred 24 years ago

Sherrod to AJC: Encounter happened 24 years ago and was "completely misconstrued" by Breitbart because she was discussing "getting beyond the issue of race." In a phone interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution on July 20, Sherrod said the video was "completely misconstrued" and "excluded 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." From the AJC:

But in a phone interview from her home in Albany early Tuesday morning, Shirley Sherrod told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that the

video posted online Monday by biggovernment.com and reported on by FoxNews.com and the AJC completely misconstrued the message she was trying to convey.

[...]

But Tuesday morning, Sherrod said what online viewers weren't told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago -- before she got the USDA job -- when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

[...]

Sherrod said the short video clip excluded 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.

"And I went on to work with many more white farmers," she said. "The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it's about the people who have and the people who don't. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race."

Sherrod made similar comments during a July 20 appearance on CNN's American Morning.

Video producer confirmed that "the full speech is exactly as Sherrod described...she goes on to explain learning the error of her initial impression." Talking Points Memo reported that, "The Douglas, Ga., company which filmed the banquet for the local NAACP has refused to release" the video until the national NAACP gives him "permission" to post it. However, Wilkerson told TPM "that the full speech is exactly as Sherrod described, and that she goes on to explain learning the error of her initial impression and helping the farmer keep his farm."

In the video, Sherrod says "Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm," - in 1986. Statements Sherrod made while she recounted the relationship she had with a white farmer during the NAACP dinner corroborates her claim that she made those statements 24 years ago. In the video, Sherrod can be heard saying that "Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm," when she had the encounter with the white farmer:

SHERROD: I did enough so that when he - I assume the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me - either that or the Georgia Dept of Agriculture - and, uh, he needed to go and report that I didn't help him.

So, I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm.

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy was enacted in 1986. In a June 2009 press release touting Sherrod's appointment to USDA, the Federation/LAF states that Sherrod had worked for them "Since 1985."

Conservatives have raised questions about Breitbart's editing of tape

The Anchoress: "I am uncomfortable with this 'get' by Breitbart." In a July 19 post on The Anchoress, blogger Elizabeth Scalia questioned Breitbart's selectively edited video of Sherrod's comments (emphasis in the original):

Nevertheless I am uncomfortable with this "get" by Breitbart.

[...]

But the video ends so abruptly!

Sherrod, who is not an impressive public speaker, says she did not do all she could for the "poor white farmer" who she perceived to be somehow both asking for her help and simultaneously "trying to show me he was superior to me; I knew what he was doing..." She admits that she did just "enough" for the farmer so as to cover her own sense of accountability and then: "I took him to a white lawyer . . . I figured if I took him to one of them, then his own kind would take care of him."

Yes, there is a bit of paranoid projection, there, and some shocking language-language that has been rightly rejected by society-that seems to play well to the audience. But then Sherrod apparently has a revelation. She begins to understand that "it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white-it is about white and black-but you know it opened my eyes, because I took him to one of his own."

Yes? AND?

[...]

Doesn't it seem like, after all of that sort of winking, "you and I know how they really are" racist crap wherein Sherrod-intentionally or not-indicts her own narrow focus, she was heading to a more edifying message? What did it open her eyes about? Was she about to say "I took him to one of his own, but it shouldn't have mattered about that; my job was to serve all the farmers who needed help."

Was she about to say, "I learned about myself and about how far we still have to go?"

Was she about to say "it's not poor vs those who have, because we are not at war, we are just in the same human reality that ever was?"

Was she about to say, "poor is poor, hungry is hungry and the past is the past when a family can't eat?"

I want to know. Because it seemed like Sherrod was heading somewhere with that story, and the edit does not let us get there. I want the rest of the story before I start passing judgment on it.

[...]

I want to see the rest of the tape. I cannot believe Sherrod ended on "I took him to one of his own." Either she said something much worse after that (which we would have seen) or she said something much better.

If it was something "better" then we should have seen that, too.

Hot Air's Allahpundit: "Doesn't it sound like Sherrod was building to a 'but' before the clip cut out?" In a July 19 post on prominent conservative blog Hot Air, Allahpundit echoed Scalia's concerns about Breitbart's editing of Sherrod's statement, despite his "assum[ption]" that "Breitbart's edit is fair to the spirit of her remarks":

Here's Ed's post on the vid in case you missed it this morning. It's a great write-up, but The Anchoress adds an important wrinkle: Doesn't it sound like Sherrod was building to a "but" before the clip cut out?

Breitbart has not released the full video. As Media Matters has noted, Breitbart has yet to release the full video of Sherrod's speech.

Farmer's wife said Sherrod is a "friend" who "helped us save our farm"

Farmer's wife said Sherrod "helped us save our farm." In an interview with CNN on July 20, Eloise Spooner - the wife of the farmer who Sherrod helped - came to the defense of Sherrod, calling her a "friend" who "helped us save our farm." The Atlanta-Constitution Journal similarly reported that Spooner considered Sherrod a "friend for life" and said that Sherrod "worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986." From the Atlanta-Constitution Journal:

But Spooner, who considers Sherrod a "friend for life," said the federal official worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.

"Her husband told her, 'You're spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,' " Spooner told the AJC."She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out."

Breitbart has a history of promoting "heavily edited tape[s]"

California attorney general: ACORN videos were "severely edited by [Breitbart protégé James] O'Keefe." According to the California attorney general's office:

Videotapes secretly recorded last summer and severely edited by O'Keefe seemed to show ACORN employees encouraging a "pimp" (O'Keefe) and his "prostitute," actually a Florida college student named Hannah Giles, in conversations involving prostitution by underage girls, human trafficking and cheating on taxes. Those videos created a media sensation.

Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story, however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General's report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O'Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.

"The evidence illustrates," Brown said, "that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."

Breitbart repeatedly published O'Keffe's videos on his BigGovernment.com website.

Law enforcement sources criticize O'Keefe and Giles' editing ACORN tape "to meet their agenda." A March 1 New York Daily News article reported that "a law enforcement source" said of O'Keefe and Giles: "They edited the tape to meet their agenda." A March 2 New York Post article, headlined "ACORN set up by vidiots: DA," reported of O'Keefe and Giles' ACORN tapes: "Many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister, sources said."

Breitbart and O'Keefe released "heavily edited tape" of Philly ACORN office. On October 21, 2009, Fox News reported that O'Keefe and Giles released "a heavily-edited video on Wednesday depicting their visit to ACORN's Philadelphia office." Fox reported that a "new eight-minute video depicts O'Keefe and Giles entering ACORN's Philadelphia office and meeting with [ACORN employee] Conway-Russell. O'Keefe and Giles are seen speaking with Conway-Russell, but audio portions of the video are missing or edited in some portions." Fox News correspondent Eric Shawn stated, "They played that heavily edited tape but did not show the ACORN worker's audio for legal reasons." O'Keefe later wrote: "We muted the audio of the ACORN employees on the video released today due to ACORN's legal attack upon us. We call upon ACORN to state publicly now that it has no objection to the public release of any its employees' oral statements to us. If they are interested in the truth, why wouldn't they do so?"

In video promoted by Breitbart, O'Keefe falsely claims he sought advice from DC ACORN on establishing brothel for "prostitution of a dozen underage girls." In a voiceover at the beginning of his Washington, D.C., ACORN video -- which was promoted by Breitbart -- O'Keefe claims that in Washington, he and Giles "sought housing assistance from ACORN in order to establish a brothel where we could profit off the prostitution of a dozen underage girls trafficked in from El Salvador." In fact, at no point in the transcript of Giles and O'Keefe's visit to the Washington, D.C., ACORN office does either Giles or O'Keefe clearly state that they are planning to engage in child prostitution.

Breitbart-promoted doctored video falsely claimed community organizers were "praying" to Obama. On September 29, 2009, Breitbart.tv embedded a YouTube video under the headline: "Shock Discovery: Community Organizers Pray TO President-Elect Obama." The video included captions reading "Deliver Us Obama" and "Hear Our Cry Obama," suggesting that the crowd of people -- members of the faith-based group The Gamaliel Foundation -- featured in the clip was "pray[ing] to" Obama. Breitbart.tv subsequently updated the original post with an editor's note acknowledging that "there is a debate over what is actually being said" and that the crowd may, in fact, be saying "oh God" rather than "Obama." The Gamaliel Foundation subsequently stated that "at no time have we prayed to President Obama" and that in the video, the organizers "can be heard saying, 'Hear our cry oh God,' 'Deliver us oh God,' etc."

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