Breitbart still trying to spin his way out of Sherrod affair

It seems patently clear now that Andrew Breitbart will probably never accept responsibility for what he did to Shirley Sherrod. Indeed, here we are, six months later, and the conservative activist is still busy spinning his involvement, furiously claiming that the “intended target” of the two-minute video he posted that got her fired was the NAACP, “not Shirley Sherrod.” “The target,” he repeats in a December 6 post on his Big Government website, was “unambiguously clear” and so was the context, he insists, which was “excruciatingly clear.” At the same time, he laments, "[b]efore the article and clips were analyzed in their entirety and put into its proper context, President Obama via the USDA chief Tom Vilsack, fired Shirley Sherrod."

From Breitbart's post:

My 1400-word article featuring two separate video clips of Shirley Sherrod speaking before the NAACP hit the Internet on Big Government. Before the article and clips were analyzed in their entirety and put into its proper context, President Obama via the USDA chief Tom Vilsack, fired Shirley Sherrod.

The story and the videos perfectly hit their intended target -- which was the NAACP, not Shirley Sherrod. Ben Jealous apologized immediately for the NAACP crowd's positive response to the moment when Sherrod describes one time when she treated a white farmer differently from how she would treat a black one.

My story made the target unambiguously clear: “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.”


All of this was put into excruciatingly clear context in a Big Government post, which included the two video clips, both received from an anonymous source who also described in broad strokes that she later sent the farmer to a white lawyer for help.

“Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help,” I wrote. “But she decides that he should get help from 'one of his own kind.' She refers him to a white lawyer.”

This is quite the astounding way for Breitbart to absolve himself of all blame, considering that, in the same post, he declares: “I strongly believed, and still believe, that I had irrefutable evidence” of racism on the part of the NAACP and it was “unambiguously clear” from the 2-minute video that Sherrod was telling a “racist tale.”

Indeed, in the July 19 post titled, “Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism,” that started it all, Breitbart claimed to show “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient.” Trumpeting Sherrod's testimony in the deceptively cropped video clip he posted as a “racist tale,” he wrote that “Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.” Breitbart also posted a tweet asking, “Will Eric Holder's DOJ hold accountable fed appointee Shirley Sherrod for admitting practicing racial discrimination?”

When Sherrod was later fired, a follow-up post on crowed, “Racist Govt Official/NAACP Award Recipient Resigns after Big Government Exposé” (the “racist” part of the headline has since been removed), and prodded the NAACP to “denounce the racism in the video.”

During a July 20 interview with TPM Media, Breitbart said: “I think the video speaks for itself. The way she's talking about white people ... is conveying a present tense racism in my opinion. But racism is in the eye of the beholder.” And in a July 20 appearance on CNN, he also repeatedly suggested Sherrod was a liar. Ten days later Breitbart admitted that “If I could do it all over again, I should have waited for the full video to get to me.”

Nevertheless, Breitbart insists that in his original post, he provided “clear context” that this was not about Sherrod, since he had included the statement that “Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help.” From the original post:

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.

But Breitbart's 2-minute video and 1400-word post omitted her explanation that she did not just send the farmer to “one of his own kind,” but that she later went to much greater lengths to help him. In remarks Breitbart didn't include, Sherrod stated:

SHERROD: So, everything was going along fine -- I'm thinking he's being taken care of by the white lawyer, then they lift the injunction against USDA in May of '87 for two weeks and he was one of 13 farmers in Georgia who received a foreclosure notice. He called me. I said, well, go on and make an appointment at the lawyer. Let me know when it is and I'll meet you there.

So we met at the lawyer's office on the day they had given him. And this lawyer sat there -- he had been paying this lawyer, y'all. That's what got me. He had been paying the lawyer since November, and this was May. And the lawyer sat there and looked at him and said, “Well, y'all are getting old. Why don't you just let the farm go?” I could not believe he said that, so I said to the lawyer -- I told him, I can't believe you said that. I said: It's obvious to me that he cannot file a Chapter 12 bankruptcy to stop this foreclose, you have to file an 11. And the lawyer said to me, I'll do whatever you say -- whatever you think -- that's the way he put it. But he's paying him. He wasn't paying me any money. You know, so he said -- the lawyer said he would work on it.

And then, about seven days before that man would have been sold at the courthouse steps, the farmer called me and said the lawyer wasn't doing anything. And that's when I spent time there in my office calling everybody I could think so to try to see -- help me find the lawyer who would handle this.

The rest of Sherrod's testimony can be seen and read here.

Following Breitbart's initial post, CNN interviewed the “white farmer” who Breitbart had described as a victim of Sherrod's discrimination, and he said her critics “don't know what they're talking about” and that Sherrod had done “her level best” to help him save his farm.

Moreover, in the original post, Breitbart suggested that the actions Sherrod described in the video he posted came in her capacity as the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development during the Obama administration. The video itself also included text that said, “Ms. Sherrod admits that in her federally appointed position, overseeing over a billion dollars she discriminates against people due to their race.”

In fact, the actions she described were from some 24 years ago, when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund -- before she began working for the Agriculture Department. A clear admission that Breitbart's initial post lacked “excruciatingly clear context,” a correction upended to the post states:

Correction: While Ms. Sherrod made the remarks captured in the first video featured in this post while she held a federally appointed position, the story she tells refers to actions she took before she held that federal position.

When Breitbart was scrambling to justify his actions following widespread condemnation, he argued that his original post was all about racism from the NAACP and “not about Shirley Sherrod.” Breitbart began stating in media appearances that the video proved there are racists among the NAACP because “the audience was laughing and applauding as she described how she maltreated the white farmer,” and he argued that the audience did not “know that there was going to be a point of redemption” in her story.

In fact, the audience did not applaud at any point during the story about her interaction with the farmer. The full video - which Breitbart apparently did not possess until after he wrote his article accusing Sherrod of racism -- also shows that the audience did have reason to understand where Sherrod's speech was going and that her story was about the importance of moving beyond race. Before getting into the story about the “white farmer,” Sherrod previewed the lesson that she learned:

SHERROD: God is good. I can tell you that. When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people -- and to black people only. But you know God will show you things and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people --

AUDIENCE: All right. All right.

SHERROD: -- you know. The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm. He took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior to me -- I knew what he was doing.

But in his December 6 post, Breitbart plods on. Reprising a tired narrative he has used to defend himself before, Breitbart holds up the media as the boogeymen in the whole affair, accusing them of “falsely framing the story as an intentional hack job meant to hurt Sherrod personally.” However, this, too, as I documented above, proves to be just another dishonest deflection from a factually challenged activist who openly, and, repeatedly, referred to Sherrod as a racist.

Breitbart has yet to explain why he should be taken seriously by anyone in the news media given that he didn't attempt to speak to Ms. Sherrod before he posted the tape. By the way, Sherrod is still waiting on an apology.