- Video Clip from CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360" Program
Events leader to and after Blogger Andrew Breitbart lied by editing a video clip of Shirley Sherood's speech in March 2010 intend to smear her reputation and which led to the Secretary of the US Dept of Agriculture to wrongly call for her resignation.READ TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO CLIP BELOW
- Andrew J. Breitbart ( born February 1, 1969) is an American blogger, publisher-commentator for the Washington Times, author, and an occasional guest commentator on various news programs.
He may be best-known for serving as an editor for the Drudge Report website. He was a researcher for Arianna Huffington, and was employed by her as "the primary developer" of her website, the Huffington Post.
He currently runs his own news aggregation site, Breitbart.com, and five other websites: Breitbart.tv, Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace
- Shirley Sherrod was a United States Department of Agriculture Georgia State Director of Rural Development, and who was forced to resign after a heavily edited video of her address to a March 2010 NAACP meeting was posted on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website on July 19, 2010.
In the video, Sherrod (an African American woman) described her own attitude, while employed at a private advocacy firm in 1986, when a white farmer sought her help after his farm was about to be foreclosed.
The decision to fire her was revisited after the full version of the video, which presents the context for Sherrod's excerpted remarks, was made public. The event ignited debates regarding racism in the United States, the reporting practices of the Fox News Channel, and the decisions made by the administration of President Barack Obama.
Sherrod has since received an apology from the administration, and has been offered another job with the Department of Agriculture.
Read here in Independent UK
Shirley Sherrod: A Week is a Long Time in Politics
By Rupert Cornwell
On Monday Shirley Sherrod was called racist and forced to resign. Now the White House is begging her to return
It began, like so many political brouhahas these days, with a video posted on a website – a clip from a speech by a mid-level black official of the US Department of Agriculture in which she mused on an incident from a quarter of a century ago, long before she joined the federal government.
But in the space of a couple of news cycles, Shirley Sherrod's life story was rewritten – TWICE/
First she was branded an unreconstructed racist and sacked. Within barely 24 hours however, she was offered a new job by the Government, this time hailed as a symbol of racial reconciliation and redemption.
In the same blinks of the news cycle, the right saw a seeming propaganda coup transformed into an own goal; the Agriculture Department was obliged to issue a cringing apology; and the Obama White House, not for the first time, had clumsily stumbled into a controversy on race – the very issue this President was supposedly uniquely placed to overcome.
Utterly forgotten amid the fracas were two genuinely important political events: passage of an extension of jobless benefits that will help millions of Americans brought low by the recession, and the signature of the most sweeping financial regulatory reform in 75 years.
Welcome, in short, to US politics in this hot and ill-tempered pre-election summer of 2010. Depending on how you look at it, the story began either 24 years ago or at the start of this week.
On Monday morning, the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a two-and-a-half minute video extract of a speech made in March 2010 by Ms Sherrod, the Agriculture Department's (USDA) director of rural development for Georgia, in which she apparently admitted having discriminated against a white farmer.
Within hours she was receiving abusive messages. Inevitably the controversy was seized upon by Fox News, mouthpiece of the conservative movement, which denounced the "shocking" video and demanded Ms Sherrod's resignation.
It hardly needed to ask. That afternoon she was travelling when Cheryl Cook, a deputy undersecretary at the USDA called to inform her that the White House, no less, wanted her out, because her comments were causing a furore on the cable networks.
"They called me twice," Ms Sherrod explained. "The last time, they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that's what I did."
Not for the first time, political accusation, conviction and assassination, internet-style, had taken less than half a day.
Even the NAACP, the venerable US civil rights group that had organised the meeting at which Ms Sherrod spoke, praised her ousting – a move probably not unconnected with its accusation a few days earlier that the right-wing Tea Party movement, darling of Fox News among others, had racist elements in its ranks.
Alas, in this particular assassination it quickly became apparent that the wrong person had been put to the sword. The clip, it emerged, had been lifted entirely out of context from a speech that lasted 43 minutes.
Far from venting reverse racist spleen against whites, the 62-year-old Ms Sherrod was telling her thoroughly uplifting life story – of how her father had been murdered by white men in 1965, at the height of the civil rights struggle; how she had married her husband Charles, a civil rights campaigner committed to non-violence; and how she had become the director of a non-profit group that helped black farmers, in an era when the USDA was notorious for its discrimination against blacks.
Yes, she admitted to her NAACP audience, she initially had had her doubts when the white farmer and his wife approached her back in 1986, desperate for help. But help them she did, as she came to understand that economic and financial pressures were the same for everyone, regardless of the colour of their skin.
In the event, she became friends with the farmers she saved from ruin. "If we hadn't found her we would have lost everything," Roger Spooner, now 82, says. "She's always been nice and polite and considerate," adds his wife, Eloise. "She was just a good person."
By this point in proceedings it was clear – even to right-wing diehards convinced that black officials in the Obama adminstration, from the President down, are waging a war of revenge against whites – that the original story didn't quite stand up, that the vilified racist was in fact an exemplar of racial harmony.
By Wednesday Bill O'Reilly no less, that most pugnacious of Fox hosts, was apologising to Ms Sherrod "for not doing my homework".
He wasn't the only one.
Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture Secretary, called with an apology, offering her another job at his department. Albeit more circumspectly, the White House also ate humble pie. "A disservice was done. An apology was owed," said Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama's spokesman.
Given the cable beast's unquenchable need for novelty, the uproar probably will subside quickly; Ms Sherrod's personal 15 minutes of fame will soon be up. But the lessons of the affair ought to linger.
With the exception of the lady herself and the Spooners, who resolutely confirmed what really happened, no-one emerges with credit. Not the right and its media acolytes, in their eagerness for anything with which to smear the Obama adminstration, and further improve the Republicans' already bright prospects for November's mid term elections.
Nor the USDA or the NAACP, which both bought the original story and acted without fully checking the facts.
"We were snookered," [into believing that Ms Sherrod made racist remarks] Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP president, noted ruefully.
And certainly not the White House. It claims it had no direct hand in Ms Sherrod's hasty removal, but her version of events suggests otherwise.
The White House was as guilty as Bill O'Reilly of not doing its homework.
And Team Obama has a wider problem. This is America's first black president, whose moving and perceptive speech on race was a highlight of his 2008 campaign. But for the second time in a year he has put his foot in it on an issue of race.
In July 2009 Mr Obama's statement that the police had "acted stupidly" in arresting the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates led to uproar only put to rest by a "beer summit" at the White House of the various parties involved.
Perhaps a similar exercise involving Mr Obama, Mr Vilsack, Ms Sherrod and the Spooners is in order. (The President and Ms Sherrod are said to have spoken yesterday.)
Either way, it is hard to dispute that this White House is overly fearful of giving the slightest ammunition to the right, however dubious that ammunition's provenance.
Above all, these three days in July have provided a sobering cameo of how news operates in Washington in the internet age.
Politics in America has always been a brutal sport, in which anything – including heavily edited footage of an obscure Agriculture Department official talking about a tiny event long ago – is fair game. But more than ever, the media is part of the process. Talk show hosts become national political candidates, and vice versa.
News is born, explodes and dies at cyberspace speed. No one, it seems, dares take a deep breath to check the facts.
"This is a good woman, and she's been put through hell," said Mr Vilsack, who is said to have offered Ms Sherrod a post at the USDA focusing on civil rights. But Ms Sherrod was dubious yesterday.
"I'm not so sure that going back to the department is the right thing to do," she told CNN.
The Blogging Culprit
And who can blame her?
In America's firmament of conservative bloggers, few stars shine brighter than Andrew Breitbart, who counts Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh as friends and considers Matt Drudge a mentor. (Strangely, he also co-founded the liberal Huffington Post website, an association he dropped as his former colleague Arianna Huffington moved to the left.)
His suite of websites, the first of which he started in 2005, has become a key arena for right-wing opinionating in the US and Breitbart has never shied from the limelight.
He cheerfully refers to Barack Obama as a Marxist, is regularly speared by liberal watchdogs for distorting the truth to attack his enemies, and used his Big Government site to air a series of heavily edited videos that led to the demise of the ACORN voter registration group over allegations of fraud.
If the row over the Shirley Sherrod case exposes him to a new level of publicity, it seems unlikely that he will shrink from it.
Transcript of CNN- Anderson Cooper 360 Video Clip
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight: BP comes closer to killing the well, but also burying the only hard evidence we will ever have about just how much oil was flowing into the Gulf. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that.
But we begin tonight with the smearing -- the smearing of Shirley Sherrod. Well, the White House apologized today. So did the guy who fired her. And she has been offered a new job. We will talk to her in a minute to see if she is going to accept that new job.
But the damage has been done. And a woman who gave the speech about the change in her outlook and her heart has been dragged through the mud and has had to prove she is not a racist.
This can happen to anyone. And it is not right. Imagine it happening to you.
The truth is, it can happen to anyone, and the truth does matter.
But we live in an age where that simple fact is increasingly lost, as people on the right and the left, people who view things through the prism of politics and ideology, seek to score points by scoring scalps.
Cable news is part of the problem. There's no doubt about that. The left and the right have their own anchors who only report on the stories that suit their slant. That's their right.
But we think the truth matters.
It's even worse on the Internet, where there are no standards and where anonymity allows for the cruelest expressions of vitriol and hate.
Now, if you watched much of the coverage of Shirley Sherrod today, what seems to have been lost in much of it is the man who first posted this video, which was clearly edited to deceive and slander Ms. Sherrod.
His name is Andrew Breitbart.
Now, I don't know him. I have never met him. But watching him try to weasel his way out of taking responsibility for what he did to Ms. Sherrod today is a classic example of what's wrong with our national discourse.
Andrew Breitbart is a conservative, but of course there are liberals who are just as narrowed-minded and who are also refuse to admit when they are wrong. Breitbart posted the clip on Monday on his Web site. Nearly everything Mr. Breitbart said about Shirley Sherrod was either wrong or somehow slanted to make a larger point about racism in 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 Ms. Sherrod; it was about the NAACP and what he says is their racism based on the audience's reaction to her speech.
Here's what he said last night on "JOHN KING, USA."
( VIDEO CLIP, "JOHN KING, USA")
ANDREW BREITBART, PUBLISHER, BREITBART.COM:
This tape is about the NAACP. Its raison d'etre is about nondiscrimination.(END VIDEO CLIP)
And when Shirley Sherrod is talking there in which she expresses a discriminatory attitude towards white people, the audience responds with applaud -- with applause -- and the NAACP agrees with me. And it rebuked her.
COOPER: Well, the fact is, there was no applause when Ms. Sherrod was talking about the white farmer.
And we will talk to members of the audience who were there that night about the reaction that they saw and heard and that they, themselves, had.
You know, Breitbart also said today that there were cheers over racist comments. Again, the facts do not bear him out.
The truth matters.
Now, the closest Mr. Breitbart came to an apology today was this comment.
( 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 it about Shirley vs. me, because that's what it's become.(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He goes on to say he's sympathetic to what Ms. 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 happened now at the USDA and the NAACP.
He said it proved racism in the crowd. You can decide for yourself about that. We will play you the tapes and you will talk -- we will 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 left and the right.
Now, you can blame the media for acting as a conveyor belt. You can blame the Obama administration for being hyper-sensitive about race.
Race-baiters, smear artists and game-players have learned that trumped-up stories about race pay off, because people care about race.
But they care more, we think, about the truth.
And the truth matters.
It certainly does to Shirley Sherrod and certainly should to all of us.
Now, as we mentioned, the White House apologized today. Then so did her former boss at the Agriculture Department, Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Here is what he said.
TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY:
This is a good woman. She has been put through hell.(END VIDEO CLIP)
And I could have done and should have done a better job. I want to learn from that experience. I want the agency and department to learn from that experience. And I want us to be stronger for it.
I want to renew the commitment of this department to a new era in civil rights. I want to close the chapter on a very difficult period in civil rights.\
So, I accept responsibility. And I -- I -- I don't think -- the buck stops with me, as it should.
The FULL VIDEO CLIP OF SHIRLEY SHERROD
which Blogger Andrew Breitbart edited a part of the video
and accused Shirley Sherrod as a racist.
which Blogger Andrew Breitbart edited a part of the video
and accused Shirley Sherrod as a racist.