The White House made me do it: Ingraham and Gingrich absolve themselves for attacking Sherrod

Right-wing media figures have tried to absolve themselves for attacking Shirley Sherrod by pointing out that the White House fired her. However, regardless of the White House's actions, these media figures are far from blameless; as Salon's Joan Walsh noted, media figures “pounc[ed] on” Sherrod without seeking any comment from her.

Right-wing media project blame for their Sherrod attacks onto White House

Ingraham: “My mistake was believing” the White House “had read the entire transcript.” After previously appearing on Fox News' Fox & Friends, where she stated that Sherrod was evidence that people with “radical outlooks, a radical agenda and in this case a racist sentiment” had “burrowed their way into the Obama administration,” Laura Ingraham appeared on the July 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to further discuss the Sherrod controversy after the full context of Sherrod's remarks had come to light. Rather than accepting responsibility for hastily and erroneously calling Sherrod a “racist,” Ingraham told Bill O'Reilly: “You know what? My mistake was this. My mistake was believing that when the Obama White House had moved to remove her from her position, that they had read the entire transcript of the remarks.”

Gingrich: Secretary of Agriculture “validated” clip of Sherrod by firing her. On the July 25 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace played a clip of Newt Gingrich stating that “firing” Sherrod “after that kind of viciously racist attitude was exactly the right thing to do” and then asked Gingrich if calling Sherrod “viciously racist” was irresponsible. Gingrich responded:

GINGRICH: Well, remember, I was operating in the context of the Secretary of Agriculture having summarily fired her, and therefore there was no reason to disbelieve the clip. And what you see was one more example of the Obama administration's continuing incompetence. Apparently, she didn't even get the courtesy of a chance to talk to the Secretary of Agriculture, who I suspect fired her under pressure from the White House. And she says she was told they were firing her under pressure from the White House.

So my comments were in the context of a clip which had been validated by the Secretary of Agriculture, who had fired her. Clearly, when you look at the complete clip, and when you look at the background information, and when you listen to the white farmer say she had actually been very helpful, I think it's a fair case can be made that this administration acted with destructive irresponsibility in the way that they fired her.

Right-wing media wildly speculated that White House might have orchestrated a “set-up” to “smear Breitbart” and Fox News. As Breitbart's Shirley Sherrod smear dissolved, rather than blame Breitbart for posting the deceptive clip of her speech, right-wing media ludicrously began speculating that he and the conservative media could have been the victim of a “set-up” that had been “orchestrated” by the White House. Beck speculated that the Sherrod controversy might be part of a plot to “destroy the credibility of Fox News” and said that if it “wasn't a set up -- I have to tell you -- it is certainly Rahm Emanuel's don't let a good crisis go to waste.” Michael Savage stated, “I'm beginning to believe that the entire affair was orchestrated by the government itself to smear Breitbart.” And Rush Limbaugh claimed, “For all I know, the White House orchestrated this whole thing.”

Walsh: “Pouncing on Shirley Sherrod” without seeking comment “is unconscionable”

Walsh: “How Fox News or anybody else could run a story and not seek comment from a person that they were calling a racist -- it's quite extraordinary.” During her July 25 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources, Salon's Joan Walsh dismantled the media's attempt to deflect responsibility for their false accusations of racism onto the White House. Affirming that “Fox played a much bigger role than people want to admit,” she stated that "[i]t doesn't matter that merely the Obama administration overreacted" -- “pouncing on Shirley Sherrod without getting her reaction or her response” is still “unconscionable.” From Walsh's appearance on Reliable Sources:

WALSH: I think they [the TV networks] bear a lot of responsibility. You know, I want to give CNN credit, because I believe CNN was among the first to search out Shirley Sherrod and find out that there was a very different story than the one that was being told. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I believe, was also very quick to go to Sherrod. How Fox News or anybody else could run a story and not seek comment from a person that they were calling a racist -- it's quite extraordinary.

And you know, a lot has been made about “Fox didn't do -- Fox isn't the cause of her firing.” I'm going to stipulate that. Let's say that that's true. But Fox played a much bigger role than people want to admit. It -- that story -- the Breitbart version of the story ran on all day Monday. O'Reilly mentioned it, Sean Hannity went on to mention it, Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich had a lovely conversation about what a racist this woman was after she had resigned. Fox & Friends went crazy the next morning. It doesn't matter that merely the Obama administration overreacted. It matters -- that's terrible that they did that -- but there was this pouncing on Shirley Sherrod without getting her reaction or her response that I think is unconscionable. She was easy to find.