Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Fallout From The Shirley Sherrod Firing With Annoying Fake Balance And Some Kowtowing To The Right Wing

Hi everyone. The Shirley Sherrod story continues, and apparently, it's apology day! Tom Vilsack was like, "you know how I totally kicked you to the curb after I watched a video from a known right wing liar and didn't even bother to investigate? My bad! Would you like another job?" Ms. Sherrod is still considering. As for our friends at 360...oy. Before I jump into those lovely bullet points, I feel the need to make this point clear: I like Anderson Cooper. Really! For the most part I think he's a good journalist and seemingly a good person. I really do like him. I say this because, well, what follows might sting a bit. Or, more accurately, it would possibly sting a bit if he read this blog or had any idea of my existence. Details! Anyway. My regular readers know I absolutely loathe fake balance, and tonight the Silver Fox did some perpetrating. I tried to be fair:
  • I might be a little slow on the uptake here, but, uh, is Anderson Cooper a commentator now? I guess I thought his consistent harping on BP was specific to that story, as the company's lack of transparency falls under the "keeping 'em honest" mission of the show. Yet here we are with a political story and our anchor is kicking off the broadcast with a very clear commentary. He's kinda sliding it in under the radar, huh? A sneak commentator! I don't really have a problem with it, but, you know, non partisan commentary worked so well for Campbell Brown.
  • Credit where credit is due, I applaud 360 for taking on Andrew Breibart, but...they left out a bunch of stuff. As I noted yesterday, the man has a history with this crap (hello! ACORN?); so much so in fact, that Shepherd Smith of Fox News did not run the edited video (something 360 did do Monday night). Smith even rightly blames his own network; whereas Anderson doesn't even mention Fox New during his commentary.
  • Instead, our anchor says this: "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." Ah, yes. Because MSNBC and Fox News are two sides of the same coin, right? Never mind that the latter is basically an arm of the conservative movement that is fed by people like Breitbart, and the former has someone like Joe Scarborough on all morning (not to mention all the other things wrong with his lazy generalization). Yes, they're exactly the same.
  • Anderson on Breitbart: "Now, I don't know him. I have never met him." I have no idea why he would say this. Whether or not he's met him is completely irrelevant. But if he's trying to say he's not familiar with him or didn't know much about him before this story, that's a problem. Anyone who covers politics should be familiar with Breitbart's tactics. Period. Anything else is journalistic negligence.
  • More from our anchor: "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." Stop. With. The. Fake. Balance. New Rule for journalists: No more lazy-ass generalizations just to keep your middle-of-the-road cred. You make a statement like this, you have to man up and support it with concrete examples. This is ridiculous. I don't know many people who would argue that there aren't individuals on the left who spin and deceive, and refuse to admit when they are wrong. But show me where on the left that there is the equivalent of the right wing smear machine. Where?! Smears/falsehoods come up from the blogs, get pushed by right wing radio, are picked up by Fox News, and are then trumpeted by conservative politicians, some of who want to be president! Show me that same mechanism on the left, give me a left-wing example of a death panel-like rumor. Otherwise, you're no better than the partisans. (Anderson's commentary is below.)

  • Once again, Shirley Sherrod returned, an interview dubbed an EXCLUSIVE by the chyron. Interesting, given that the woman has been everywhere for the past two days. The 360 kids would argue that the label is warranted because it's her first interview after Vilsack apologized. Yeah, it's a stretch.
  • Sherrod maintains that she believes the White House was involved in her firing, but she does not insist on an apology from Obama. I think he should give one anyway. Buck stops at the top.
  • Anderson on Breitbart: "What do you think his motivation was?" Seriously? To be fair, he's only trying to get Sherrod's response. Still, I can't help thinking he's just really not getting this whole right wing smear merchant thing.

  • After his smearing of Sherrod was discovered, Breitbart switched tactics, claiming that the point of the video was to reveal the racist reactions of the audience at the NAACP event. Yeah. Right. As Sherrod gave her speech, there was some muted laughter and head nodding, which has been likened to what you might see in church while someone testifies. We're joined by audience members Olivia Pearson, Mary Coley (ph), Hal Pressley, the Reverend Rudolph Porter, and Yvonne Lott to further clear things up. They explain they knew where she was coming from and therefore knew where the speech was going.
  • Anderson: "What this guy Breitbart is now saying is that, when the speech started, you in the audience, didn't know that she had changed her way of thinking, and that you were agreeing with her when she was talking about sending a white couple to a white attorney, to somebody of -- quote, unquote -- 'their own kind.'" This is a completely false premise. As pointed out by National Review Online (of all places!), before Sherrod launched into her story, she said this:
"When I made that commitment [to stay in the South], I was making that commitment to black people, and to black people only. But you know God will show you things, and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people."
  • The audience knew exactly where she was coming from and where she was going.
  • Randi Kaye's piece, anatomy of a smear campaign wasn't bad. But you still need to watch this segment from Rachel Maddow for full context. Because as we know, context is everything. (Randi's piece below.)

  • Skipping ahead now to Anderson saying this: "The Shirley Sherrod incident is just the latest controversy about race and race relations for the Obama administration. A lot of conservative bloggers are pointing to another story, a story of the Justice Department and charges of voter intimidation against the New Black Panther Party." Conservative bloggers are talking about it? I guess that's the threshold by which you choose to cover things now, huh? You don't look like you're kowtowing to the right at all.
  • As for Joe's piece, talk about context being everything. Good lord. Joe doesn't mention that the Bush administration's Justice Department decided not to pursue criminal charges. Nor does he mention that no actual intimidated voters have come forward. Media Matters actually has a whole big researched list of why this is all crap, though I can't confirm all the info myself.
  • Joe via voice over: "In a statement to CNN, the New Black Panther Party denied voter intimidation and said it did not condone the acts of the member with the night stick. That may be hard to believe for some people, given the threatening behavior, as captured in this January 2009 'National Geographic' documentary on the New Black Panthers." We're then played a clip of idiots yelling about "crackers" and killing babies. So okay, I get it, we're supposed to be afraid of these yahoos. Anyone care to tell me how large their group is? Crimes they've committed? Political power they have? Can anyone do better than just showing a video clip of some asshole being a racist? As per our theme of the night: context.
  • The real story, of course, is racism in the Justice Department...if that were actually the case. And look, maybe this story will pan out. But right now? There doesn't seem to be much there there. And the fact that 360 is going indepth on this instead of, say, that financial overhaul that just passed (um, important?), only makes them look like a ping pong ball that's going to land in whatever direction screams the loudest. (Joe's piece is below.)
Joe Johns

  • Like I said, we're going indepth on this so far non story, and we're joined by David Gergen; John Ridley, founding editor of; and David Frum by phone.
  • Frum: "I think Andrew Breitbart really was called out here. He hasn't seemed to have done any due diligence before posting this clip that did so much damage to a woman's reputation and her career." Due diligence? Give me a break. Damaging her reputation and career was the point. We've been here before.
  • Anderson: "David Gergen, though, I mean, David Frum raised a point that, you know, conservatives circle the wagons. Liberals do that, as well. I don't want to make this just bashing conservatives." You know Silver Fox, it's a good thing you're so cute. Because sometimes I kinda want to strangle you. With love, people! With love.
  • Anderson: "I just think, John, more people would believe what people say if somebody, whether they're on the left or the hard left or the hard right, would just every now and then say, 'You know what? I was wrong about that, and I was seeing it through a limited lens...'" Oh, honey. He can't be this naive. I mean, it's a nice thought and everything, but it really underestimates some of the viciousness that's out there. I don't think our anchor is fully grasping the whole Breitbart angle.
  • Anderson: "Even the reaction to this story, liberals use it as a way to bludgeon conservatives for what they did without looking into the mirror for things they have done in the past, as well." Care to enlighten us?!
  • Okay, people. This is where I get off. There was some Gulf news, but I saw Carville and was just like, oh hell no, I can't take anymore.
  • Parts of the show were alright, but obviously overall I was none too pleased--especially with Anderson clinging to his "pox on both houses" stance. Though CNN is the network with the view from nowhere, it's clear that what we heard tonight were Anderson's personal beliefs. Annoying, though not exactly surprising or new to us. But something new I did pick up on was a hint of arrogance in relation to the interwebs. Or maybe it's naivety. Yes, the Internet is a cesspool. It's also increasing becoming the place where news is being both pushed and made. It's one thing to shun his own blog and Twitter, but a journalist should be familiar with the online political scene and all the players. That's not the vibe I got from him tonight.
  • The show also lacked a really big connecting of the dots when it comes to racism and all the scandals as of late. It's funny, I actually made a note that I wanted to talk about this, and then I watched this segment from Rachel Maddow, which covers it better than I could ever dream. An excellent job and a must watch.
  • This bullet point contains my exasperation.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great on point post. Anderson was killing me with the false equivalency stuff, completely devoid of a real example of liberals playing the smear game of the conservatives. He's done this type of thing before and it's frustrating to watch because it minimizes the insidious and dangerous nature of the political game being perpetrated by certain conservatives. I tried, I REALLY tried to think of an incident where a liberal engaged in Breitbart-like behavior against a Republican, but I failed to think of a single one. Anderson's so adamant that it happens on "both sides", but he doesn't back it up. I too believe that he was injecting some of his own personal feelings in his reporting of the Sherrod story and of politics in general. I don't know what he was referring to when he praised David Frum for something he wrote on the subject, but he made it clear that he agreed with it, something he generally tries not to do. I do sometimes get the feeling that AC/CNN deliberately cherry pick the info they want to present to their audience in spite of Anderson's pronouncements about how important actual facts are.
Now I'm off to watch the Rachel Maddow clips, thanks for posting them.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Anne said...


This is a case of thanks for watching so I don't have to. When I saw the direction AC was going with the fake equivalency, I turned the channel. He was not backing up his rhetoric. I don't understand his lack of reference to the stunts this Breibart done. To me, he is refusing to acknowledge there is a highly organized right wing smear machine. The show went way off-track last night.

4:58 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anonymous: I tried to come up with a Breitbart-like incident too and also came up empty.

I didn't catch that Frum thing. I don't think Anderson is conservatively biased, but I DO think he's moderately biased, and IMO that's just as bad--something he clearly doesn't understand.

As far as cherry-picking, if you're referring to the Joe Johns piece, I don't think he deliberately left out info. CNN just has a habit of only doing surface-y investigations. If you're going to do the story; DO THE STORY. If that means a purely factual segment that lasts upwards of 10 minutes, so be it.

I just keep liking Rachel Maddow more and more. So far she seems totally trustworthy in her journalism and I hope she stays that way. Olbermann's ego and self esteem issues seem to have gotten in his way in that regard, though he's still nothing like what's on the right.

@Anne: I was confused as to the lack of Breitbart history as well. Anderson was already going after him; why not give us the full story?

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

August 3rd 2010 appears to me a new low in Anderson Coopers questioning/reporting/debating (laughable), he has become less articulate and more Fox News worthy this week. Why is he being the devils advocate for Craigs List and Arizona's Immigration law? We don't need debates being conducted by A. Cooper...please give us Don Lemon.

11:26 PM  

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