I want to take the occasion of Tina Brown’s (editor of the Daily Beast and its new subsidiary, Newsweek) latest attack on the late Andrew Breitbart to set the record straight. First, what Brown said:
Breitbart didn’t report anything. What Breitbart did, really, was he was a provocateur. He was a death by 1,000 tweets. He was, you know, quite happy to take the flying sound bite – any sound bite – and misapply it in its context and create an absolute mayhem for the person concerned like he did for poor Shirley Sherrod who was the obscure official in the Agriculture Department. He gave the impression by the cutting of her words in a tape that he released that she was giving racially motivated financing decisions when she was doing the opposite.
This is a complete lie. The left has had great success in promulgating this lie, but there’s not a word of truth in it.
Breitbart’s original article has disappeared from the site, but you can find it on the Wayback Machine. The archive’s first capture of the article is here. The text contains the context of Sherrod’s remarks in every particular:
In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.
To reiterate: It’s an lie to say that Breitbart was trying to hide the context; he made the context completely clear. The video — the infamous “edited video” — similarly carried all these details.
In fact, Shirley Sherrod was never Breitbart’s target. Sherrod was not so obscure as Brown suggests (she was actually a lightning rod for criticism, which is why the Obama administration was so eager to get rid of her), but Breitbart didn’t care about her. He was attacking the NAACP:
We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. . . Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.
The NAACP had just condemned the Tea Party as racist, and Breitbart was demonstrating that the NAACP — or at least its members at the meeting in Georgia — were the real racists. The fact that Sherrod had a moral epiphany by the end is a defense for Sherrod, but not for the NAACP, who cheered her reluctance to help the white farmer without knowing the end of the story.
The Obama administration quickly fired Sherrod, in part because they were glad of an excuse to be rid of her, but mostly to change the subject. The NAACP, unlike Sherrod, was valuable, and they needed to put the focus somewhere else.
This story is being used to tarnish the legacy of a great man, and it needs to be set straight.