Media denounce Breitbart's tactics, highlight his loss of credibility

With the implosion of Andrew Breitbart's smear of Shirley Sherrod, many in the media have criticized Breitbart's tactics, called on him to apologize, or pointed out how this episode has depleted any credibility he may have had.

Media: Breitbart “is not a journalist,” but a “bull[y]” and “slander[er]” who can't be trusted

Fox's Smith: "[W]e did not and do not trust the source." Discussing coverage of the Sherrod story on the July 21 edition of Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith said that his show declined to report on it initially because “we didn't who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement, and because of the history of videos on the site where it was posted. In short, we did not and do not trust the source.”

CNN's Cooper: Breitbart actions are “a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse.” On the July 21 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper said that Breitbart's video clips of Sherrod “were clearly edited to deceive and slander Miss Sherrod,” and that Breitbart's efforts to “weasel his way out of taking responsibility for what he did to Miss Sherrod is a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse.” Cooper continued:

COOPER: “The truth matters.” Breitbart posted the clip on Monday on his website. Nearly everything Mr. Breitbart said about Shirley Sherrod was either wrong or somehow slanted to make a larger point about racism and the NAACP. He initially said her speech showed a government official who allowed racist views to influence her work with a white farmer. But we now know it was a speech about her change of heart 24 years ago, when she wasn't even at the USDA. Today, Mr. Breitbart could have just apologized, said he was wrong, but he didn't. Bullies never do, nor do ideologues in our divided country. Instead, he now claims this was never about Miss Sherrod, it was about the NAACP and what he says was their racism based on the audience's reaction to her speech.


Well, the fact is there was no applause when Miss Sherrod was talking about the white farmer. And we'll talk to members of the audience who were there that night about the reaction they saw and heard and that they themselves had. Now, Breitbart also said today that there were cheers over racist comments. Again, the facts do not bear him out. The truth matters. The closest Mr. Breitbart came to an apology today was this comment.

BREITBART [video clip]: I feel bad that they made this about her, and I feel sorry that they made this about her. I'm not sure if that was done because they rushed to judgment or whether they wanted to make about Shirley versus me, because that's what it's become.

COOPER: He goes on to say he's sympathetic to what Miss Sherrod has gone through. Notice the passive voice here, because his words, quote, “they went after her,” and not the NAACP. It's like the arsonist saying, “I'm sorry, ma'am, for the water damage done by firefighters.” He started the fire. Andrew Breitbart said the clip he first posted proved black racism happening now at the USDA and the NAACP. It didn't. He said it proved racism in the crowd. You can decide for yourself about that. We'll play you the tapes and you'll talk -- you'll hear from audience members. He claims to feel sorry for the victim, but blames others acting on his misleading information for hurting her.

It was a phony story. It isn't the first, and it isn't the first about race. But why let the truth stop you when you're making political points? That's the way a lot of people seem to think these days, on the left and the right.

Politico's Ben Smith: “Breitbart's sites now have a growing credibility problem.” In a July 22 Politico blog post on the Sherrod story, Ben Smith wrote: “The nice thing about the new-media space is how quickly it self-corrects. Breitbart's sites now have a growing credibility problem.” Smith added: “And for all the talk of the speed of the Internet, online, like offline, reporting is a long, endless game, and with fewer and fewer trusted institutions to dispense it at will, credibility is a scarce and extremely valuable commodity.”

MSNBC's O'Donnell: “I think [Breitbart] has lost his standing to present videos to the country at any time.” On the July 22 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Lawrence O'Donnell said that Breitbart “has lost his standing to present videos to the country at any time,” adding that the ACORN videos promoted by Breitbart were “manipulated in ways that were grotesquely unfair to the people in those scenes.”

NPR* ombudsman: Breitbart's treatment of Sherrod shows he “is not a journalist.” Commenting on the Sherrod story, NPR* ombudsman Alicia Shepard said, “Any journalist would seek comment [from the story's subject before publishing]. If Breitbart does not, he is not a journalist.”

Jonah Goldberg: Sherrod is “owed apolog[y]” from Breitbart. In a July 21 National Review Online blog post, Jonah Goldberg wrote that Sherrod is “owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart.” Goldberg added that Breitbart “says he received the video in its edited form and I believe him. But the relevant question is, would he have done the same thing over again if he had seen the full video from the outset? I'd like to think he wouldn't have. Because to knowingly turn this woman into a racist in order to fight fire with fire with the NAACP is unacceptable.”

John McCormack: Breitbart's clip “was unfair,” she “deserves an apology.” In a July 21 post, The Weekly Standard's John McCormack wrote that “Breitbart's posting of the partial clip, which leaves out crucial information, was unfair to Sherrod,” adding that, “Sherrod deserves an apology from Breitbart for posting the edited video.”

David Frum: “Breitbart continues to defend his own 'ends justify the means' bending of the truth.” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote in a July 21 FrumForum blog post that Breitbart will “survive, and undamaged” and that “There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart's role.” Frum added that “Breitbart continues to defend his own 'ends justify the means' bending of the truth.”

SPJ official: Breitbart is “someone with a specific agenda.” Andy Schotz, ethics committee chair at the Society of Professional Journalists, said: “Basic journalism calls for getting information, checking it out, looking for context and trying to get to the truth. ... Gathering snippets and putting them out there to see what happens seems to be what is happening here. (Breitbart) is also someone with a specific agenda.”

This item previously identified Alicia Shepard as ombudsman for PBS. She is in fact ombudsman for NPR. We regret the error.