Fox News spent much of July 19 and 20 ginning up controversy about the false claim that Shirley Sherrod made racist remarks at a NAACP meeting earlier this year. As the claim unraveled, Fox media personalities disappeared their role in the story, continued to smear her as “descriminat[ory]” in the face of contradictory evidence, and boldly suggested the network did not contribute to the controversy.
Fox's initial reaction: “Racist” Sherrod “must resign”
O'Reilly: “Sherrod must resign,” her remarks are “unacceptable.” On the July 19 edition of his show, Bill O'Reilly played the edited portion of the tape and said “that is simply unacceptable. And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately.” He also falsely claimed that “the full transcript of Ms. Sherrod's remarks is posted on BigGovernment.com.”
Hannity called Sherrod's remarks "[j]ust the latest in a series of racial incitents," called for the NAACP to be “held to account” to repudiate Sherrod. On the July 19 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity asserted that Sherrod's comments were "[j]ust the latest in a series of racial incidents," and stated that “So it's interesting that it took the new media to expose this.” He also asked Newt Gingrich if, “in light of the NAACP accusing the Tea Party of being a racist movement last week,” he thought “the NAACP should be held to account for the very standard they were demanding from the Tea Party.”
Perino: “This video adds fuel to a growing controversy after the NAACP” asked the tea party to denounce racists. On the July 19 edition of On the Record, Dana Perino suggested Sherrod's remarks were racist, saying that “The video adds fuel to a growing controversy after the NAACP approved a resolution condemning the tea party movement for not denouncing racist members.”
Doocy: Sherrod “sure sounded racist,” is "[e]xhibit A" of “what racism looks like.” On the July 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that Sherrod made “a speech to the NAACP that sure sounded racist.” Later, after guest-host Aliysn Camerota asserted that Sherrod's remarks are “outrageous and perhaps everybody needs a refresher course on what racism looks like,” Doocy responded that Sherrod's comments are “Exhibit A.”
Beck plays “videotape of USDA administration official discriminating against white farmers.” On the July 20 edition of his radio show, Beck says that they “have videotape of a USDA administration official discriminating against white farmers.” He then asks, “Have we suddenly transported into 1956 except it's the other way around? ... Does anybody else have a sense that there are some that just want revenge? Doesn't it feel that way?” After playing the audio of the tape, Beck says, “You tell me what part of the gospel is teaching that.”
After the tide turned: Fox “didn't even do” the Sherrod story
Bret Baier absurdly claims Fox News “didn't even do” the Sherrod story. On the July 20 edition of Special Report, Bret Baier claimed “Fox News didn't even do the story, we didn't do it on Special Report, we posted it online.”
Beck on Fox: “Based on the facts that we have right now, this is something that I wouldn't air and demand a resignation on.” On the July 20 edition of this Fox News show, Beck stated: “I don't think Shirley should have been fired -- or, I'm sorry, forced to resign. Based on the facts that we have right now, this is something that I wouldn't air and demand a resignation on.” He added that he “wouldn't air” the tape because “context matters.”
Doocy on Sherrod: “What was the big hurry for them to condemn her in the first place?” On the July 21 edition of Fox & Friends, Dana Perino and Steve Doocy falsely asserted that, in Perino's words, “before the news even broke, she had resigned.” Perino then stated that “everyone's nerves are raw and exposed on these racial questions, and I think we should all look before we leap.” Doocy then stated: “What was the big hurry for them to condemn her in the first place? I don't get it, because the totality of what she said was out there.”
Rosen: “Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this?” On the July 20 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, James Rosen reported that the additional context from Sherrod's speech “appeared to corroborate” her statement that she was telling the story of “how she came to see beyond race,” and then asked: “Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this because they are on edge themselves because of the Van Jones controversy, the Black Panthers Party case, and other controversies?
The holdouts: Sherrod was still ”discriminating" against the farmer
Hannity doubles down, says Sherrod “still admits discriminating,” suggested he's unfairly “getting blamed.” On the July 20 edition of his show Hannity asserted that “She still admits that she was discriminating against this white farmer.” He added that “I'm getting blamed and Fox News is getting blamed, but it's the White House that made the decision before we ever aired the tape.”
O'Reilly's ignores context, still claims “What [Sherrod] said is ridiculous.” On the July 20 edition of his show, O'Reilly was still claiming that “What [Sherrod] said is ridiculous,” and stated the real story is “the news blackout” on the Sherrod story, and how “the establishment press tilts left and is reluctant to do damage to a very liberal president.”