I’m a big fan of the show “Mythbusters.” Their schtick is to take a myth, urban legend, rumor, video, or whatever, test the hell out of it, and render their verdict: Confirmed, Plausible, or Busted. And, occasionally, “Plausible” has some serious disclaimers that it is exceptionally unlikely.
I’m going to lift that convention here and apply it to the swirls of controversy surrounding the dustup involving Andrew Breitbart, the NAACP, and Shirley Sherrod.
Myth 1: Fox News got Sherrod fired.
Earlier this week, I got into a dustup over this, and did some research into the precise timeline of what happened when. What I’ve managed to establish (all times Eastern, as best as I can tell about what happened last Monday:
- Breitbart releases his video at 11:18 a.m.
- Sherrod says she was fired “Monday afternoon.”
- Sherrod also says during that firing, her bosses had received no less than three calls from the White House demanding her resignation.
- Sherrod also adds that part of the message was that “you’ll be on Glenn Beck’s show tonight.”
- Glenn Beck’s show airs at 5:00 p.m.
- The earliest mention I can find of Sherrod’s resignation being announced is at 1:40 p.m.
- The NAACP issued their now-recalled press release condemning Sherrod at some point after noon.
So, Sherrod’s dismissal fell at some point between 12:01 p.m. and 4:59 p.m. Fox News put the story on its web site, but it didn’t hit the airwaves until after 8:00 p.m.
It becomes apparent that Sherrod wasn’t fired because of what Fox News did, but because the Obama administration feared what Fox News would say.
So, the verdict here: “Plausible,” based on the Foxnews.com initial story, but highly, highly unlikely.
Myth 2: Breitbart edited the video to “get” Sherrod.
The video Breitbart initially released was carefully edited. It showed a portion of Sherrod’s speech where she practiced her own form of racial discrimination, and the audience approving. The speech was at an NAACP banquet honoring her earlier this year, and was her account of an incident that happened 24 years ago. The excerpt ended before Sherrod’s insight: that what she had done was wrong, and discrimination — whether white against black or black against white — was wrong.
Breitbart claims that he published the entire video he was given, and he did not edit it. Further, he says that he contacted the NAACP for a full copy of the video, and was denied.
That is a very, very risky claim for Breitbart to make. His request very well might be documented at the NAACP, and that could prove quite damning.
Further Breitbart has a history of “aiming high.” He goes after big names –very prominent people and organizations. To him, Sherrod is very, very “small fry.” He says that his target was the NAACP, and the point he wanted to show in the video was not Sherrod’s admission, but the audience’s reaction.
An audience made up of attendees at an NAACP banquet honoring Sherrod. An audience that, when hearing her admission of discrimination, expressed approval.
Conclusion: Busted. To Breitbart, Sherrod was entirely incidental to his point. The NAACP was always Breitbart’s target.
Myth 3: The NAACP was “snookered” by Breitbart into issuing their press release condemning her.
As noted, the video Breitbart released was taken at an NAACP function. The NAACP had the full, unedited video in their possession. Further, Breitbart had put in a request for that video. Had they practiced their “due diligence,” they would have reviewed that video or consulted with someone who attended it before making any statements.
In sports terms, this was an “unforced error.”
Conclusion: Busted. If the blame for the NAACP’s error were to be divided up, they’d own at least 90% of it.
There’s a hell of a lot more misinformation floating around, but that oughta be good for starting up the tussle…