Myth of Andrew Breitbart’s “deceptively edited” Shirley Sherrod tape resurfaces with Vilsack nomination
Andrew Breitbart is not around to defend himself. But if he were, he’d rightfully say, Apologize for WHAT?
In 2015, I thought we had put to rest one of the most persistent and pernicious liberal media myths denigrating Andrew Breitbart.
The myth is that Breitbart, together with Larry O’Connor, deceptively edited a video in 2010 of then USDA employee Shirley Sherrod leading to her precipitous firing by then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The supposed deception was to show Sherrod admitting (before she was employed by USDA) to an NAACP group that she once discriminated against a white farmer, without showing the part of the speech where she admitted she was wrong to do that and ended up helping the man, and had learned from the experience to treat people fairly.
When a longer version of the speech was released showing that moment, Vilsack admitted the error of his ways, apologized for jumping to conclusions, and offered to rehire Sherrod (she refused, and ended up settling with the government).
This Sherrod incident became a major line of attack against “right wing” media in the early years of the Obama administration, and in particular, to demonize Andrew Breitbart and Breitbart News as racist and fraudulent.
But the narrative was all wrong. The key material aspects of the story — including the part where Sherrod said she regretted her decision and helped the man — were in fact in the edited clip.
There is no one who has examined the initial video released regarding Shirley Sherrod more than I have. Each of the material items supposedly left out of the initial video which allegedly rendered it misleading actually was in the video. You can see my frame-by-frame analysis here, for example.
Here were some of my posts on the subject of the Sherrod tape:
- The Original Sherrod Clip Was Not “False”
- Dissecting Shirley Sherrod’s Complaint Against Andrew Breitbart
- Saturday Night Card Game (Repeat after me: “The Shirley Sherrod tape was not misleading”)(regarding AP and Politico article)
- Repeat after me again and again: “The Shirley Sherrod tape was not misleading” (regarding WaPo article)
- The myth of Andrew Breitbart’s “deceptively edited” Shirley Sherrod tape lives on at Slate.com
- NY Times perpetuates myth of Andrew Breitbart’s misleading Shirley Sherrod video
After a lawsuit by Sherrod against Breitbart’s estate and O’Connor settled, I thought the issue was put to rest, Shirley Sherrod case settled, now put to bed myth that Breitbart’s tape was misleading (emphasis added):
After several years, and a lengthy docket, the Sherrod case has settled. A Stipulation of Dismissal and Order of Dismissal were filed in the case a few days ago. (Copies at bottom of post).
The terms were not disclosed, and inquiries to attorneys on both sides have not been returned. (added) A joint statement was released last month, acknowledging that the blog post accompanying the video mistakenly originally indicated Sherrod was at USDA at the time. That error, having nothing to do with substance, was corrected immediately.
So the Sherrod saga is over — but the record needs to be clear, Andrew Breitbart and Larry O’Connor did nothing wrong. The short video was not misleading. If anyone screwed up, it was the Department of Agriculture.
The case is put to bed. Put the anti-Andrew Breitbart myth to bed as well.
But it wasn’t put to rest. In 2016, the NY Times repeated the false accusation of deception against Breitbart, NY Times repeats false claim Andrew Breitbart’s Shirley Sherrod tape was “misleading”:
The NY Times has a story on how Breitbart News has become a center of political attention this year, and how its traffic and influence is at an all time high.
That was the focus of the article, but there was one paragraph that jumped out at me (emphasis added):
Before Mr. Breitbart died, the site had gained notoriety by championing the Tea Party movement and publicizing an undercover video that led to the closing of Acorn, the community organizing group. It also posted misleading footage of Shirley Sherrod, a black Department of Agriculture official, who was fired for seeming to express resentment toward a white farmer; the White House later apologized.
…. Andrew Breitbart is not around to defend himself against the Sherrod tape smears.
But at least I can keep calling out lazy, ignorant and malicious reporters who either don’t fact check or fact check and lie.
But the claim has resurfaced again.
Joe Biden has indicated he intends on nominating Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture, again. There are plenty of good reasons not to have Vilsack in that role again, first and foremost that he did a terrible job at it during the Obama years.
Inevitably also, the Shirley Sherrod incident has come up, with some activists claiming the Sherrod firing should either disqualify Vilsack, or at least, it’s a sign that Biden does not truly care about blacks. And again, the myth of the “misleading” Breitbart tape is being resurrected as if it were a given.
Vox’s Dylan Matthews wrote of the Vilsack-Sherrod episode:
The USDA, while a crucial agency for the 35 million-plus Americans on food stamps and millions of farmers and farmworkers, doesn’t make headlines in the mainstream press that often. An exception came on July 19, 2010, when a misleadingly edited clip of Shirley Sherrod, the department’s Georgia state director of rural development, was posted by far-right provocateur Andrew Breitbart. The clip showed Sherrod, during a speech at a local NAACP event, recalling a time she helped a white farmer in 1986; Breitbart edited the clip to make it sound as though she initially refused to help him because he was white. Before the day was out, Sherrod was forced to resign. The White House told reporters it was “100% Vilsack’s call” to force her to quit.
Quickly, though, it became clear that the video had been taken wildly out of context; the white farmer in question went on CNN to defend Sherrod. By Wednesday, Vilsack admitted he had been taken in by a scurrilous right-wing hit job and offered Sherrod a new position at the USDA, telling reporters, “This is a good woman, she’s been put through hell and I could have and should have done a better job.”
Civil rights leaders critical of Vilsack see the incident as illustrative of the department’s inaction on racial discrimination. In a conference call with Biden, NAACP president Derrick Johnson made the point in terms of the upcoming Georgia Senate elections, telling the president-elect, “former Secretary Vilsack could have a disastrous impact on voters in Georgia. Shirley Sherrod is a civil rights legend, a hero.”
[Note: The link in the Vox piece about the “misleadingly edited clip” goes to Media Matters, hardly a reliable source.]
The Des Moines Register casually threw in the claim:
Vilsack also has been criticized for his role in the 2010 ouster of the USDA’s Georgia state director of rural development, Shirley Sherrod, who is Black, after a misleadingly edited video released by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart gave the impression she had withheld help from a white farmer. Vilsack later offered to rehire Sherrod, but she declined.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid, in introducing an interview with Sherrod regarding Biden’s nomination of Vilsack, repeated the claim:Andrew Breitbart is not around to defend himself.
But if he were, he’d rightfully say, Apologize for WHAT?DONATE
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