Note: I initially wrote this early afternoon Wednesday, just after I saw the original online NYT story go up. The quotes are from that original version. Later that afternoon, the Times revised the story on line, which I noted in the Updates. In reading the printed version in Thursday’s edition, it’s apparent the Times substantially rewrote the main portion of the story dealing with Fox and Breitbart, so it’s closer to what my original critique would have suggested. Good. SC
Video from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
Anyone following the Administration’s shameful treatment of Shirley Sherrod also knows that the entire episode began with a premeditated hit piece by Andrew Breitbart, an unethical right wing thug who viciously smeared both Ms. Sherrod and the NAACP. And he did that by circulating a deliberately misleadingly edited video of what was in fact an innocuous, even praiseworthy speech by Ms. Sherrod.
Putting aside the Administration’s shameful reactions, for which it has now apologized and for which Secretary Vilsack has now claimed full responsibility, we shouldn’t forget that Breitbart was the true villain in this piece in smearing an honest person while pretending not to. And it’s not the first time he’s done this — Iago and John/Borachio have nothing on this thug — it’s his pattern.
They should also realize that he planned the entire scheme to use Fox News and the Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly shows to trumpet and disseminate the misleading video supplied by Breitbart, and the Fox crew happily played their parts until it blew up.
But apparently, the New York Times Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Shaila Dewan and Brian Stelzer [updated authors per NYT] and their editors think these central facts are not important. Here’s how the Times [original version] describes what happened in the top part of tonight’s story:
Ms. Sherrod’s videotaped remarks, at an event in March sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had become fodder for the left and the right about which side is more consistent about policing racism in its ranks. Snippets of that speech — a heavily edited version — made their way through the Internet and were played by Fox News on Tuesday, which used them in the context of reporting about the N.A.A.C.P. last week accusing parts of the Tea Party movement of being racist.
Over the weekend, a two-and-a-half minute video clip emerged of Ms. Sherrod, speaking in Douglas, Ga., seemingly explaining that she had discriminated against a white farmer 24 years ago.
So: (1) this was just some left versus right spat; (2) snippets of the video magically "made their way through the internet" and (3) Fox innocently used them in a legitimate "context of reporting" about a story on the NAACP. No planned, coordinated hit piece there, right? Just "reporting."
Seven paragraphs later, the Times manages to tell us this:
The video was spotlighted by Andrew Breitbart [link to Breitbart's blog], a conservative blogger known for promoting videos that emerged last year and ultimately brought down Acorn, the community organizing group.
So, Mr. Breitbart, a mere "conservative blogger" who only promoted videos about ACORN, merely "spotlighted" a video of Ms. Sherrod which he just happened to acquire. The Times doesn’t tell its readers that Breitbart was fully aware the video was "heavily edited" nor reveal that he has claimed he never saw or asked to see the unedited video — i.e., that he was at least reckless in using it to accuse someone of racism. Nor does the Times tell us that multiple investigations examined the ACORN incident and "hooker" video which he also distributed, also heavily edited, and determined that Breitbart and his fellow ratf***ers misrepresented what happened at ACORN and outrageously defamed ACORN and its innocent employees.
The Times thus doesn’t tell its readers the most basic facts: that Mr. Breitbart is a known political operative, a total jerk and dishonest man who specializes in this dishonesty, and that’s how this all started. There’s nothing to tell us that once again he has peddled videos, and promoted them in coordination with Fox/Beck/O’Reilly, that following Breitbart’s/Fox’s pattern, the original video snippet is so thoroughly dishonest and misleading that it defamed honest public servants and institutions. Instead,the only comment the Times can manage about Breitbart is to repeat, uncritically, more of his charges against the NAACP.
Breitbart is a political smear merchant who should be banned from access to all responsible news media. Despite that, in the last 24 hours, Breitbart was allowed to spew propaganda mostly uninterrupted on CNN’s John King (whom he completely rolled), Fox News and Good Morning America. But the New York Times should be ashamed that it not only missed the main story but whitewashed a villain who has repeatedly defamed innocent people, hurting the country and poisoning our political discourse, all while claiming to be a journalist.
John Chandley, who gets home delivery.
Update II: Since I posted this earlier Wednesday afternoon, it appears the Times has edited its original article — same link — and substituted/added two reporters to Ms. Stolberg. For example, I believe — the original is gone — this paragraph is different or new, and there is additional information later on how Fox presented the story:
The controversy illustrates the influence of right-wing Web sites like the one run by Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who initially posted the misleading and highly edited video, which he later said had been sent to him already edited. (Similarly, Mr. Breitbart used edited videos to go after Acorn, the community organizing group.) Politically charged stories often take root online before being shared with a much wider audience on Fox. The television coverage, in turn, puts pressure on other news media outlets to follow up.
While this is slightly better than before, the Times fails to mention that the "edited videos" on ACORN were proven to be fraudulent, nor does the Times appear to know that Breitbart has admitted he didn’t just receive the edited Sherrod video, he requested the Sherrod video be edited and gave instructions on what he wanted it to show. C’mon Times, you can do better than that.
Update: Digby catches Politico’s Jim Vandehei mouthing Breitbart’s spin and misrepresenting NAACP’s actions
Media Matters, Sherrod: I’m a victim of Breitbart, Fox racism