Remember Andrew Breitbart? He was the man who used selectively-edited video to paint Shirley Sherrod as a racist, to smear the NAACP, and to accuse the Obama administration of reverse racism. It was all a big, premeditated lie.
Unbelievably, ABC News now plans to have Breitbart participate in their Election Night coverage, despite his history as a deceitful operative who distorts, lies, and race-baits.
ABC’s decision is a slap in the face to Shirley Sherrod, to Black America, and to everyone who believes in the value of telling the truth. It’s unacceptable. It’s why I’m joining ColorOfChange incalling on ABC News and its parent company Disney to drop their plans to include Breitbart now:
The video pushed by Breitbart showed Ms. Sherrod telling a story about how she once was asked for help from a White farmer, and how she didn’t “give him the full force of what [she] could do” to help him, because of his race. In reality she was telling the story of how working with that family to save their farm helped her to lose her racial preconceptions.
Breitbart touted the video as evidence that the NAACP and the Obama administration tolerated racial discrimination against White people, saying that it showed Sherrod’s “federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.” Breitbart’s doctored video and false storyline moved quickly to FOX News, where on-air personalities called for Sherrod’s firing. The day that the story became news, Sherrod was forced to resign from her post at the USDA.
The truth is that Sherrod was telling a 25-year old story about her work for a non-profit organization whose mission was to help Black farmers. Discrimination against Black farmers was rampant, and she described how she was first reluctant when approached by a White farmer named Roger Spooner for help (in her speech, Sherrod connects her reluctance to the fact that her father was killed by a White farmer 45 years ago). But after seeing that no one wanted to help Spooner, she worked to save his farm, and eventually became good friends with his family.
Once the full tape was obtained, it became clear what Sherrod was trying to do, and what Breitbart had done. But even after he was exposed, Breitbart refused to apologize, and continued to lie, as well as attack the NAACP and the Obama administration. Sherrod is now pursuing a lawsuit against Breitbart.
All this was actually nothing new for Breitbart — this is what he does. Posing as a journalist, Breitbart promotes and concocts fake stories and peddles them as news. It was Breitbart who showcased heavily doctored video showing two people posing as a pimp and prostitute supposedly getting services from ACORN (among other accusations). Of course, once it had been determined by legal authorities in several states that the tapes alleging misconduct had been altered and the storyline was completely fraudulent, it was too late: ACORN — which had a history of registering more low-income African-Americans to vote than any other organization in the country — had been destroyed.
After controversy began on Friday about Breitbart’s participation, an ABC spokesperson confirmed that Breitbart would be participating in the coverage. Then, Saturday afternoon, after criticism grew even stronger from inside and outside the company, the executive producer of ABC News Digital indicated that Breitbart’s role might be even more limited. But ABC is still giving him access to their media platform and endorsing him as a legitimate journalist in the process.
We understand how Breitbart operates, but we expect more from ABC. Their decision to have Breitbart participate is shameful and irresponsible. It’s important to have opinions from across the spectrum, but you would expect a news organization to at least try to make its platform available to those with some baseline of integrity. In this case, they’ve sought out someone who has clearly has none — and whose shenanigans in the Sherrod episode forced almost every major news organization to issue retractions and apologize.
It’s not too late for ABC to do the right thing. Please join us in demanding that they do:
Sherrod: Andrew Breitbart is ‘a liar’, CNN, 7-22-2010
Failing Upward: Breitbart To Be Featured in ABC’s 2010 Election Coverage, Media Matters, 10-29-10
Source: ABC’s newsroom upset with decision to tap Andrew Breitbart, Washington Post, 10-30-10
Analyze this: ABC News clarifies Andrew Breitbart’s role, Washington Post, 10-30-10