Andrew Breitbart has attempted to divert attention from his falsehoods about former USDA official Shirley Sherrod by claiming that her NAACP audience applauded "as she described how she maltreated the white farmer." While some in the media have uncritically forwarded his falsehood, CNN's Anderson Cooper has definitively exposed it as false.
Breitbart invents false claim that NAACP audience was "applauding" while Sherrod described discrimination
Breitbart: "The point" of tape is NAACP audience offered cheers and applause for discrimination without knowing that it was a "story of redemption." In a July 20 interview on Fox News' Hannity, Breitbart claimed that the real story revealed by his Sherrod clip is how "the audience was laughing and applauding as she described how she maltreated the white farmer." Breitbart also asked, "Did the people in the audience know that there was going to be a point of redemption?" After Sean Hannity replied "no," Breitbart said, "The point is that the NAACP at a dinner honoring this person is cheering on a person describing -- describing a white person as the other." Similarly, in a July 21 interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Breitbart claimed that his video shows that "at an NAACP event, people are applauding racism."
Breitbart offered a very different take in his original post. In his initial post on the Sherrod video, Breitbart described the audience reaction as only "nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement."
CNN's Cooper dismantles Breitbart's false claims
Cooper: "The fact is, there was no applause when Ms. Sherrod was talking about the white farmer. Breitbart's claim that the audience was applauding as she "described how she maltreated the white farmer" is demonstrably false. Contrary to Breitbart's claim, the audience does not applaud or cheer at any point during the story about her interaction with the farmer. On his July 21 show, CNN's Anderson Cooper aired comments about "applause" Breitbart made on John King, USA and noted, "The fact is, there was no applause when Ms. Sherrod was talking about the white farmer." He added: "You know, Breitbart also said today that there were cheers over racist comments. Again, the facts do not bear him out."
NAACP chapter president: We were not "cheering racism." Also on Cooper's July 21 show, Hal Pressley, the president of the NAACP chapter that held the event, said that he was in attendance and that no one in the audience was "cheering racism," and that they "were acknowledging that we understand what she is saying, where she's coming from."
Speech attendee Pearson: "totally untrue" that "we were cheering something on and then ... learned something else about it." Another attendee, Olivia Pearson, told Cooper, "to say that, you know, we were cheering something on and then learned out -- and learned something else about it, that's totally untrue. I have known Shirley for -- for 11 years, and I know that that's not her character."
Other media uncritically reported Breitbart's falsehood
Wash. Times quotes Breitbart saying, "What you see on the video are people ... applauding her overt racism." The Washington Times wrote in a July 20 article:
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."
AP uncritically reports Breitbart said that "the video provides evidence of Georgia NAACP members applauding ... at racist behavior." On July 22, the Associated Press reported:
Breitbart did not immediately respond to an AP request for an interview.
But on ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday, he said his story "was not about Shirley Sherrod." Instead, he said, the video provides evidence of Georgia NAACP members applauding or laughing at racist behavior, at the same time national NAACP figures are criticizing the tea party movement for having members that express racist sentiments."