Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Smeared And Unjustly Fired

Hi everyone. Well! It's been a very interesting day or so, hasn't it? So. Much. Fail. Just about the only person to come out of this looking good is the one who is now unemployed. For the cave-dwellers, a sum-up: Last March, Shirley Sherrod, the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, spoke at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. On Monday, this video clip was posted to ring-wing smear-merchant Andrew Breitbart's blog. The clip implies that Sherrod discriminated against a white farmer by not offering him the full help she was capable of giving--simply due to his race.

Once the post hit the interwebs, into the right-wing echo chamber the story went, soon finding a home at Fox News. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack subsequently freaked, the NAACP threw Sherrod under the bus, and the rest of the media piled on. In the end, a woman was fired and branded a racist. But a funny thing had apparently happened on the way to Breitbart's blog: Sherrod's comments had been taken completely out of context. Today we learned that not only was she talking about an incident that happened over two decades ago, her story was really about overcoming racial prejudices, and that farmer she supposedly wronged (but really helped) is one of her biggest supporters. All of this can now be verified by the full unedited video.

Shirley Sherrod did absolutely nothing wrong and should be reinstated immediately. She lost her job due to the viciousness of one man (Breitbart) and the cowardice of another (Vilsack). Throw in some extra cowardice by the NAACP and a poor performance by the media, and we're left with one big bucket of shame. Even our friends at 360 are touched by the fail. Last night during the News and Business Bulletin, they gave us a headline version of the story. The edited clip was included; Sherrod's side of the story was not. In tonight's broadcast, Anderson Cooper notes that they did call her last night and we are played a message she left in response.

One can only assume this response came after air time. Under normal circumstances, I would not fault them (or anyone) for going ahead without Sherrod's side. But this video originated with a man who has a history of distortion and promotion of edited tapes. They should have known to be extra skeptical, and this dear readers, is where the fail hits me, because I should have called them on it last night. I don't usually bother with the headlines--my regular readers know I don't blog them. During 360 was the first time I heard of the story, and like most, I believed the edited video without question. If I knew where it came from I wouldn't have, and I would have cautioned you to do the same. An all-around fail. So...bullet points?
  • Of note in the Sherrod interview was that she believes the White House was involved in her firing, while Vilsack claims he acted alone. Hm. She also believes that this was payback for the NAACP resolution against the Tea Party, and I tend to agree. The interview is below:

  • After break, Roger Spooner, the farmer helped by Sherrod is brought into the conversation. I have to say, this segment is sort of a train-wreck, but in a much more light hearted way than say, Roland Martin vs. Mark Williams. First of all, we have a soon to be 88-year-old man (I know because he told us!) who clearly doesn't have the memory he perhaps once did. Put that on top of a satellite delay and poor Anderson's coughing, and you've got yourself a fun time. Watch below:

  • On the "get" front, 360 did well with this story, as we're next joined by NAACP head Ben Jealous (I'm thanking the baby Jesus we only had to endure Breitbart clips and not the man himself). I gotta pause right here to say one thing: snookered? That's your word choice? Anyway. Of note is Anderson asking Jealous if he called Sherrod to get her side of the story, which results in a big long answer that never actually addresses that specific question. Uh huh. Interview below:

  • They wrap up this story with a panel that's rocked by David Gergen, Boyce Watkins, and Joe Johns. It's not a bad panel, but it feels like a cop-out. The right-wing smear machine is an entire angle of this story that they simply failed to significantly cover, and it's an integral part to what happened. Whether it be 360's middle of the road orthodoxy, ignorance, or maybe even cowardice, it certainly doesn't make them look good. And it's why Rachel Maddow did a better broadcast tonight than they did.

  • There was a snippet of Gulf news tonight as well, which included rumors of Tony Hayward's ouster. Douglas Brinkley discussed.
  • The 360 kids may have been sans Breitbart, but they apparently weren't going to go home for the night with their "crazy" quota unmet. I give you, Michele Bachmann! Anderson did pretty good here until the end when he just totally lets her get away with saying we're tax slaves. Sigh.

  • The show was okay. I think my commentary pretty much speaks for itself. They booked the major players and everything, but if I had to recommend only one hour of cable news to watch on this story, it'd be Maddow and not them.
  • This bullet point contains a behind-the-scenes video of 360's time in Haiti, produced by production assistant Vladimir Duthiers. Besides Vlad, appearances include our anchor (sporting glasses!), Neil Hallsworth, Charlie Moore (Charlie!--heh), Phil Littleton, Gary Tuchman, producer Justine Redman, producer Tim Crockett, cameraman Jerry Simonson, Ivan Watson (sunburned!) and Sean Penn (smoking--boo!).

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Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

You write such detailed posts, its just as good as watching, a lot of times, better. (like last night) I have to sound off on the injustice done to Ms. Sherrod. No one came out of this looking good, only Ms Sherrod and the farmer she helped. Shameful behavior from Brietbart, news media, NAACP, to the White House. Someone commented on NPR today, that when cops shoot/kill an unarmed person, they are placed on administrative leave until the case is resolved. This poor lady was fired immediately, on the phone, no less. The media - epic fail. Like you said, Breitbart has a history of distortions, the media has no excuse. They should apologize to her. I still cannot believe the mob mentality that took hold and held us hostage. If I were her, I would never return. That Vilsack, what a weasel. Anne

4:46 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne: I just found out that Shep Smith held off on the story due to Breitbart's history. If only everyone could have been as conscientious.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%, however, what is so hard about puting the truth (i.e. full video) out there for the people to see and let the guilty parties be recognized? I know Im not a huge political analyst, but it also makes sense to me that the administration take some responsibility for forcing a resignation from her without hearing the whole story.. I mean it only makes sense to me that you would make a person resign if they were truly guilty of something, I hope it wasn't because the administration fears Glenn Beck. If this is the case, it sounds like she recieved a double-whammy: A smear from Fox News, and a forced resignation from the Administration. Its just a bit strange that I can understand why Fox would do what they did, but there has to be more to this resignation thing than I've been

9:00 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@anonymous: I think all signs point to the administration's reasons being the very thing you fear. They seem totally cowed by the right wing noise machine. The Daily Show actually did a good segment about it last night. Van Jones. ACORN. Now Sherrod. They keep allowing (and thus enabling) the right to conduct these smears. It won't stop until they man up and fight back.

5:55 PM  

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