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Breitbart And The NAACP: Busting The Myths

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...


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Comments (25)

About point #2, am unsure w... (Below threshold)

About point #2, am unsure whether you say Breitbart or the MSM is busted. Please clarify... thanks

Jay, sadly this is one of t... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Jay, sadly this is one of those occasions where facts just don't matter that much.

The misinformation that's out there has been deliberately advanced by people who don't want the truth to be known, acknowledged or appreciated. At the time, how many people believed ACORN had been set-up? And has that number decreased or increased since then? The Left is relentless in their efforts to hide any inconvenient truth once it is demonstrated, and equally relentless in their efforts to rewrite history after any such occurrence. The people over at The DC are doing an excellent job demonstrating those two points with their ongoing coverage of the archives of Journolist.

Chai, I just went back and ... (Below threshold)

Chai, I just went back and expanded the conclusions. Sorry about the misunderstanding.


There's a reason why the cr... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

There's a reason why the credibility of the legacy media keeps falling - the decline is fully earned.

Notice that while Sherrod was clearly the story of the week, and only a few days ago there was speculation she might appear on all the major Sunday talk shows, she wasn't invited to any of them. Could the fact she really is an unrepentant racist have influenced the booking?

I think a distinction betwe... (Below threshold)

I think a distinction between "edited" and "excerpted" needs to be made here. What Breitbart originally posted was an excerpt, not an edited video.

"Editing" usually implies that the contents of a video have been altered. Nothing about what Shirley Sharrod said, or how the audience reacted, was altered in the original video Breitbart posted.

Had Breitbart posted a complete piece of synthesized propaganda similar to Think Progress' pathetic "The Tea Party is RAAAAAACIST!!!" video, where short clips from numerous videos were deliberately edited together out of context, then Breitbart would be guilty of "editing". But he didn't do that. He published an unedited excerpt and then sat back while the NAACP and the Obama White House tripped over themselves.

I know this kind of speculation is getting tiresome, but I have to wonder how the NAACP would have reacted to a video like this during the Bush Administration. Would they have defended Sherrod? And if Bush had pressured his Secretary of Agriculture to let Sherrod go, would the NAACP have accused Bush of racism?

In my opinion, the political context of Sherrod's firing is much more interesting than the video context of her remarks.

"And if Bush had pressured ... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

"And if Bush had pressured his Secretary of Agriculture..."

Wouldn't have happened in the first place. GWB is an experienced manager and a fundamentally fair person. But I do understand the point you're making.

@Jim Addison,The r... (Below threshold)

@Jim Addison,

The reason that Shirley Sherrod didn't make (or actually was shunned from) the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows is because she clearly jumped the shark when she said on Anderson Cooper 360 that Breitbart wants to "get us all stuck back in slavery."

CNN's full video clip of this is at You Tube.

Facts are stubborn things, and the facts show that the old media is trying its dead-level best to spin this by saying either of the following:

1.) Fox News website posting of Sherrod's speech caused her firing, or 2.) O' Reilly taping his show at 5 pm (with content devoted to Sherrod's speech) caused her firing and ouster.

BUT, Sherrod's own words destroy those two liberal myths.

She, in her own words, said that she was told to pull over and resign because of what was supposed to air on Glenn Beck's show (which never materialized on his show), not because of what was on Fox News website or what would be on O'Reilly's show.

And she, in her own words, said that she was ousted by the White House.

All of the spin from the old media is meant to protect the NAACP and the Obama administration because they messed up and threw her under the bus.

The claim that the audience... (Below threshold)

The claim that the audience expressed "approval" at apparent "racism" has been roundly debunked as a bald-faced lie. When she said she wasn't inclined to help the man, the audience's "approval" was expressed with DEAD SILENCE. So Breitbart's post-hoc cover story is as dishonest as his original promotion, and the only people "bustred" by this claim are the people making it.

And of course, nobody is really claiming that he edited the video himself. Just that he sat on it for long enough - by his own account, he had it for WEEKS before releasing it - that he could easily have done the due diligence which would be the basic professional standard for anybody calling himself a "journalist".

Nicole,Ok, so now ... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:


Ok, so now we know your interpretation of the video and of Breitbart's statement.

Now, are you concerned enough with the truth to go back and review both the originally posted video and Breitbart's statements as to the origin and date of arrival of the video? (Here's one hint - after ignoring the source's original offer of the video for months, Breitbart states he went back and requested a copy after the NAACP's vote on the "racism in the Tea Party" memorandum. It was sent to him on CD. You're going to have trouble constructing a plausible case for that material being in his possession for WEEKS.)

Bottom line. The NAALCP and... (Below threshold)

Bottom line. The NAALCP and Barry scurried like cockroach's when the lightswitch got clicked on.

Sorry Jay, but I don't agre... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Sorry Jay, but I don't agree with you on this one. Yes, the Obama White House and the NAACP acted in their characteristic fashions, but Breitbart did in fact screw up big-time.

Regarding M#1, what I have heard is not that Fox Newsgot Sherrod fired, but 'Right Wing Extremists'. That's a lie, of course, but it's harder to nail down, since specific names and organizations are not used. Cross-ref Hillary's Vast RWC ...

Regarding #2, if a left-leaning site posted a video that proved to be edited, would we say 'oh, that's OK, you didn't now'? We never have, and we were right to pursue the fact that when a site posts a recording, they take on responsibility for it. It's not as is someone snuck into Breitbart's place and posted that video, he cchose to do that. When he says he never knew it was edited, it really does not excuse him for the fact that he broadcast an inaccurate version of the incident. Sad, because the full-length version would have worked well enough for him, while his actins in this case may fairly be called rash and unprofessional. Think about what will happen the next time a conservative posts a recording of a leftist saying or doing something outrageous - Breitbart will be brought up, and the veracity of the recording will be impugned from the start. Andrew has handed the left a weapon to use against all future exposes made by conservatives, no matter how thoroughly prepared they are.

There's another myth that also needs to be busted here - the idea that because Ms. Sherrod is still something of a racist and very much a classist, that she does not deserve an apology or repair for what happened. Right and wrong still matter, or at least they should matter to us. Whatever someone else should choose to be, we should stand for higher ethics and consistent standards of behavior. Regardless of the intent, Ms. Sherrod was fired on a specific charge which turned out to be false. Ends do not justify the means, so she should receive apologies and recovery for what has happened.

DJ, Brietbart did the right... (Below threshold)

DJ, Brietbart did the right thing. Sherrod was incidental to his point. It is the NAACP and Obama that had her fired before anyone even knew about this.

I do not think they feared Fox News as much as some claim. I think they knew this woman and maybe she has a habit of making these racist or classist claims. Maybe the NAACP believed the claim because they knew her.

I am never for killing the messenger unless it is proven without doubt that an attempt to manipulate was done. That has not been proven to me. ww

The REAL question...who sen... (Below threshold)

The REAL question...who sent Breitbart the video? Looks as thought the sender was trying to set Breitbart up for a fall, hoping that he would pounce on the video, claim racism on the part of Sherrod and then be properly "chastened" and discredited when the full video was finally released. But if the NAACP was the engineer of the set up, why would it pressure the White House to have Sherrod fired? Why would the NAACP not let Hussein in on the scam and then work together to destroy Breitbart? Be interesting to find out.

So wildwillie, the next tim... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

So wildwillie, the next time the MSM runs a tape claiming Tea Party people are racist because the tape indicates it, they get off the hook by saying 'hey, we just ran what was given to us'?

Sorry no, I expect higher standards and Breitbart just plain screwed up this time. That does not make him responsible for Odammit's attitude or the NAARECP, but he is responsible for his own standards. I don't put up with one set of standards for people we like and a different one for other people, and we must show a consistent ethic here as well.

Re "That is a very, very ri... (Below threshold)

Re "That is a very, very risky claim for Breitbart to make"

Not if it is true and especially if he document it with a tape.

Dean and others blaming Fox News for the overreaction and screw-up's of the administration and NAACP is once again pathetic. At least they didn't blame Bush this time but give them time.

One unintended consequence IMO is that when the MSM puts on an edited\excerpted video like they have done so often in the past, people will scream that it is another one of these cases.

I watch the "Mythbusters" as well for some reason. Problem is they are a bunch of idiots. They try it a couple of times with little thought and if "they" can't do it or it didn't happen in a few attempts "it is busted". Concept is still good since like I say I do watch it quite a bit.

Talking about media standar... (Below threshold)

Talking about media standards. When we the MSM be held responsible for dragging people name through the mud and\or destroying people's lives then when they find out they are wrong the MSM will give a quick apology then look for someone else to do it to? Ramsey's, Atlanta security guard, Duke Lacrosse players to name a few.

DJ, I know what you are say... (Below threshold)

DJ, I know what you are saying but Brietbart used the video to demonstrate the audiences reactions to acts of racism. I wish the conversation of this event would focus on that. ww

DJ, I know what you are say... (Below threshold)
Jeff L:

DJ, I know what you are saying but Brietbart used the video to demonstrate the audiences reactions to acts of racism. I wish the conversation of this event would focus on that. ww

WW...have you watched the whole video? The audience reaction that you are referring to does not exist except in the out of context partial video that Brietbart posted. Just as Nicole posted above. Brietbart demonstrated nothing except that he ran with something that was not true and he got called out on it. Not that that bothers him or the majority of the posters here.

Wildwillie, intent does not... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Wildwillie, intent does not excuse harm. It's like saying the drunk driver is innocent, because he just wanted to go home.

Also, have you consider my point that anytime a conservative produces a video showing a Democrat/Liberal/Acid-spewing-Che-wannabe in full, hmm, character, we will be reminded of Breitbart and the video spurned even if its authenticity is proven beyond doubt? Aside from the ethics, our side has always had to be cleaner and hold higher standards in order to get a toehold of the public interest.

Oddly, the president of the... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Oddly, the president of the NAACP reportedly was disgusted with the reaction of the audience when Shirley stated she gave less than what she could have to the white farmer. The audience clearly reacts positively (racist) to that part of her speech. If anyone has seen or heard a tape which does not so indicate, then it has been edited. Sherrod was not the target. This was just a slight of hand move to shift the blame elsewhere. When it could not be put on Sherrod than it must be Breitbart. Fortunately, Sherrod reveals herself when she accuses Fox, the GOP and Breitbart of being racist. Check out what her husband advocates.

I'm waiting for an apology ... (Below threshold)

I'm waiting for an apology for all the times the MSM\politicians\etc have taken Rush out of context, misstated what he said, etc. Even when their lies are pointed out, they make a lame claim of "we knew what was in his heart".

Ray - "she was told t... (Below threshold)

Ray - "she was told to pull over and resign because of what was supposed to air on Glenn Beck's show (which never materialized on his show), not because of what was on Fox News website or what would be on O'Reilly's show."

And I'm still waiting for some reporter, any reporter to track down "under-secretary Cook" to hear her side of the story. If there is one.

Given Sherrod's BS about Fox I'm thinking it's possible she made that crap up.

Jay, you say (write) this..... (Below threshold)

Jay, you say (write) this...

The earliest mention I can find of Sherrod's resignation being announced is at 1:40 p.m.

Can you cite the source of that mention? A link perhaps? I have been looking for the same.

I suspect some might make t... (Below threshold)

I suspect some might make the case that Bill O'Reilly had made a fuss over Ms. Sherrod, and that was at least a contributing factor. At least, it becomes plausible that mention of the story had at least appeared on Fox News before she was fired.

So, the verdict here: "P... (Below threshold)

So, the verdict here: "Plausible," based on the Foxnews.com initial story, but highly, highly unlikely.

Correction: thefoxnation.com merely linked to and posted a copy of Breibart's story at 1:40, by which time Breibart's story had already been discussed and linked to by several bloggers.

(Jay, if this is the 1:40 you referred to, you need to correct your time line)

FoxNews.com did not post a story until sometime after 5:00pm EST (first comment shows up at 5:22).

And O'Reilly's mention of it came at 8:50pm and had nothing to do with her firing.






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