We documented on Tuesday that Fox News failed miserably to gather the facts on the Shirley Sherrod video before rushing to malign her on national television. While some at Fox seem to acknowledge that the network's actions did not meet the standards of a real news organization, others have attempted to whitewash Fox News' role.
While this incident was particularly visible, Fox News routinely distorts the facts and airs misleading video or audio to advance a false narrative. Unfortunately, Fox often gets away with these journalistic transgressions without objection from other news organizations.
In this case, however, we're not the only ones who noticed Fox's failure on the Sherrod story.
The New York Times notes in a report today that the incident has been “humiliating,” not only for the White House, “but also for the N.A.A.C.P. and the national news media, especially the Fox News Channel and its hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, all of whom played a role in promoting the story about Ms. Sherrod."
Also from the July 22 New York Times article:
Fox News began its pursuit of Ms. Sherrod in prime time on Monday night on three successive opinion shows that reached at least three million people. Leading off, Mr. O'Reilly asked on his top-rated program, “Is there racism in the Department of Agriculture?” He discussed the tape, plugged Mr. Breitbart's Web site and demanded that Ms. Sherrod resign immediately.
By the time Mr. O'Reilly's remarks, which were taped in the afternoon, were broadcast, Ms. Sherrod had indeed resigned, a development that Fox's next host, Mr. Hannity, treated as breaking news at the beginning of his show. He played a short part of what he called the “shocking” video from Mr. Breitbart, and later discussed the development with a panel of guests, mentioning the N.A.A.C.P.'s recent accusations of racism within the conservative Tea Party movement.
“It is interesting they just lectured the Tea Party movement last week,” Mr. Hannity said, telegraphing a talking point that would come up repeatedly on other shows.
Fox's 10 p.m. show also covered the resignation as breaking news. Ms. Sherrod later said Fox had not tried to contact her before running the video clip repeatedly on Monday. (A Fox spokeswoman said the O'Reilly program had contacted the Agriculture Department for comment. On Wednesday, Mr. O'Reilly said he owed Ms. Sherrod an apology “for not doing my homework.” )
Noting that Andrew Breitbart initially posted the deceptive video, the Times stated that “Politically charged stories often take root online before being shared with a much wider audience on Fox. The television coverage, in turn, puts pressure on other news media outlets to follow up.” Indeed, we have noted that Fox routinely draws content from right-wing blogs without fact-checking the claims they make.