LAT's Rainey criticizes Breitbart, Fox for pushing false attacks

In a July 24 column, Los Angeles Times media critic James Rainey criticized Andrew Breitbart for his deceptive attacks painting USDA official Shirley Sherrod as a “racist.”

From Rainey's column:

But certain media outlets have played the story and the political ramifications for the Obama administration (and there are questions to be answered) as if they sprang out of the ether. There's a continuing rush to talk about effect, and very little desire to talk about cause -- the steaming pile of misinformation delivered on a platter by one individual with a giant ax to grind.

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative agitator behind websites like and, likes it this way. Stirring the pot, gobbling up chunks of cable television time, doing whatever it takes to further his political beliefs, even if it means putting one woman's reputation through a meat grinder.


Breitbart said he was compelled to post the Sherrod video because it proved that it was the NAACP, not the Tea Party movement, that harbors racists. He was ever-so dismayed that others in the media made Sherrod the object of censure.

Right. Then why did his original posting on Monday morning specifically call out Sherrod -- declaring that the video of her speech offered “evidence of racism coming from a federal employee.”

Rainey also heaped scorn on Fox News for promoting the bogus attack on its web sites and cable news shows:

A Fox News executive released notes from an internal meeting to show that the network's news producers had been urged to treat the video story with caution. But anchor Shepard Smith zinged some, including programs on his own network, for swallowing the story whole.

“We didn't know who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement,” said Smith, adding that Breitbart's history didn't inspire great confidence. “In short -- we did not and do not trust the source.”

Too bad that message didn't reach the operators of Fox's websites and commentator Bill O'Reilly. posted the story on Monday, and the website followed with the video and the accusatory headline: “Caught on Tape: Obama Official Discriminates Against White Farmer.” That night, O'Reilly called on Sherrod to resign. (She had already agreed to leave her post before the O'Reilly segment aired.)

O'Reilly at least apologized for proceeding without all the facts. (Though he then proceeded to backhand Sherrod for two days running, suggesting she might be too dangerously left wing for government service.)


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