AP: Breitbart, Fox News ran with “racism” narrative before knowing the facts

A July 21 AP article reports that the right-wing media scandal that used truncated video to smear a USDA official as racist shows “the power of conservative media.” The article notes that right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart “said he offered 'video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee' ” and that Fox News initially framed the story as “racism caught on tape,” only to change their tune after seeing the entire video.

From the July 21 Associated Press article headlined, “Sherrod case shows power of conservative media” :

Fox News Channel has been riding high in the ratings since Barack Obama became the nation's first black president a year and a half ago. Commentators Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly offer a favorite destination for many administration opponents.

The Sherrod story erupted after BigGovernment.com, a website run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted portions of her speech at an NAACP banquet in March.

Breitbart's story began: “Context is everything.” He said he offered “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee,” and followed with snippets of the speech.

On the video, Sherrod, hired last August as director of rural development for the U.S. Agriculture Department in Georgia, talked about her unwillingness to offer much help to a white farmer when she worked at a non-profit organization 24 years ago.

The story moved from the Internet to Fox News Channel on Monday night.

In seeking her resignation, Sherrod said, a USDA deputy undersecretary told her the story was going to appear on Beck's program late Monday afternoon. Instead, Beck didn't discuss it that day; it first appeared a few hours later on the top-rated prime-time show “The O'Reilly Factor.”

AP went on to highlight Fox News' Hannity and Fox & Friends initially embracing the racism narrative, with Fox guest Laura Ingraham discussing “people who have burrowed their way into the Obama administration with radical outlooks, a radical agenda and, in this case, a racist sentiment.” AP then noted that Fox tried to alter its narrative after the fact:

As more came out Tuesday about Sherrod's speech, Fox's focus shifted. “Race Story Takes Strange Twist” was Wednesday's headline on “Fox & Friends.”

“They may have acted without knowing the whole story,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said of the administration.

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."

Breitbart's BigGovernment.com attracted attention last year for airing video of workers at the community group ACORN counseling actors posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend. This month, Fox News has aggressively reported the story about the U.S. Justice Department choosing not to pursue a voter intimidation cases involving the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia.