Fox News exec confirms it did peddle Sherrod story before she was fired

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

It's always helpful when people inside Fox News confirm what Media Matters has reported as fact, even if the channel's outside defenders prefer to toil in conspiracy as they flail around desperately trying to make up excuses for Rupert Murdoch's channel. Not that I think this confirmation from inside Fox News will quiet the online boo birds, but it's worth noting now that they're claiming both Media Matters and Fox News are lying about the facts in the case.

Good luck with that one guys.

This by-now tiresome debate centers around whether or not Fox News jumped on Andrew Breitbart's bogus Shirley Sherrod smear campaign. We all know that on the day it broke online, Bill O'Reilly hyped the story on his primetime show, presented Sherrod as a racist, and demanded she "resign immediately." Of course, at the time O'Reilly didn't have the slightest clue what the whole story of the Sherrod tape was. But that didn't stop him from maligning a black women in the Obama administration. (O'Reilly later apologized to Sherrod.)

So if O'Reilly was demanding Sherrod's ouster, that meant Fox News covered the story before she was forced out, right? Not quite. While his show tapes at 5 p.m., it doesn't air until 8 p.m., and Sherrod resigned shortly before 8 p.m. and July 19. So technically Fox News, or so the claim goes, didn't cover the story before she resigned and so all those people who claim Fox peddled the Sherrod attack are smearing Fox News!

But of course, Fox News did peddle the story before Sherrod resigned. Fox News peddled the story online. And Fox News peddled it in two different online forums prior to Sherrod's resignation on July 19.

And in a new report from Politico, Fox News Senior Vice President of News Michael Clemente confirms that fact [emphasis added]:

But did run a story about the existence of the video, titled "Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn't Give 'Full Force' of Help to White Farmer" at 5:58 p.m. on Monday, an hour before the Agriculture Department announced Sherrod's resignation. And Wednesday, Clemente told POLITICO that was a mistake.

"There was a breakdown in the system, and it is being addressed," he said. "But it must say something about the power of Fox, that a week after she resigned, we're still talking about this."

The breakdown occurred following Fox's afternoon news meeting that day, when Clemente, according to The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offered the following advice: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right."

Clemente said he gave the advice in the meeting, not in a memo to staff, and his guidance clearly did not make it down to the reporter and producers who put the story on

And note this:

Earlier in the day, Fox Nation, a news and opinion website run by Fox News, posted a YouTube version of the video under the headline," Obama Official Discriminates Against White Farmer," with a link to Breitbart's post.

The first comment on the Fox Nation articles is at 1:43 p.m., about five hours after Breitbart posted the video to his site.

And keep in mind a subsequent article seemed to take credit for ousting Sherrod:

The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after published its initial report on the video, that Sherrod had resigned.

So yes Fox News defenders, please keep telling us how nobody connected with Fox News peddled the Sherrod story before she resigned. But just don't tell it to the SVP of Fox News, because even he's not buying it.

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