Continuing their long history of engaging in race-baiting attacks against President Obama, right-wing media figures have accused Obama, his administration, and the progressive movement of trying to start a "race war" in order to divide the public and "seize absolute power."
On his radio show today, Glenn Beck continued to peddle the bogus claim that he "supported" Shirley Sherrod because he knew "something was wrong" with the video Andrew Breitbart posted of her at his BigGovernment.com website. But as Media Matters has previously noted, Beck has been complicit in the right-wing smear campaign against Sherrod.
By the time Beck addressed Breitbart's deceptively edited Sherrod video on the July 20 edition of his Fox News show, it had been revealed that Sherrod's story was not evidence of her racism, as Breitbart had claimed, but was a tale of racial reconciliation. Beck said he wouldn't "demand a resignation" based solely on the clip of Sherrod.
If those were the only remarks he had made about the video, Beck might have a case in claiming that he "supported" her -- but they were not. On his radio show earlier that day, Beck played the edited clip of Sherrod's remarks and said it revealed "a USDA administration official discriminating against white farmers." After he played the clip, he suggested it indicated that America has been "transported in 1956 except it's the other way around." He added: "Does anybody else have a sense that there are some that just want revenge? Doesn't it feel that way?" He wasn't "supporting" Sherrod with those remarks, he was attacking her -- like many others in the right-wing media.
Even after it became apparent that Sherrod was not a racist, Beck continued his attacks. On the July 21 edition of his radio show, Beck stated that Sherrod "obviously has some sort of Marxist or redistribution qualities to her." On Fox News, Beck opined that Sherrod should have been made a "czar" because "she fits in" with the "Maoists" in the Obama administration.
Since the full video of Sherrod's remarks became public, Beck has repeatedly claimed he didn't attack Sherrod and that he supported her. It's simply not true, but that hasn't stopped other media figures from repeating his bogus claim. On the July 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz stated that Beck "ended up defending" Sherrod. And on the July 24 edition of Fox News Watch -- Fox News' media watchdog program -- panelist Jim Pinkerton asserted that "Glenn Beck never even touched the story."
It's probably too much to ask that Beck stop pushing this false claim, but other media figures should say what really happened: Beck attacked Sherrod like so many others.
This July 24 edition of Fox News Watch -- Fox News' media watchdog program -- whitewashed Fox News' role in amplifying Andrew Breitbart's smear of Shirley Sherrod. In fact, Fox News spent a significant amount of time promoting the false claim that Sherrod made racist remarks at an NAACP dinner earlier this year.
In an interview posted on the Politics Daily website, Andrew Breitbart stood by his decision to post a deceptively edited video smearing Shirley Sherrod. Asked whether he "made a mistake by rushing to get the Shirley Sherrod video out to soon," Breitbart said "[i]t had to be done at the exact moment in time that so the press would notice it."
From Politics Daily:
Q: Do you feel like you made a mistake by rushing to get the Shirley Sherrod video out too soon, though?
A: It had to be done at the exact moment in time that the press would notice it ... I grant her that she had her redemptive transformation. I said that her humanity caused her to help the farmer, and that it's not just about race. Notice how the press conspicuously ignores that. It's in the video and it's in the text [of Breitbart's original post on the topic]. Who is doing the selective editing here? This is about destroying me.
This is quite an astounding claim from somehow who has asserted that "Context is everything." It seems that Breitbart couldn't care less about what nonsense he pushes so long as it is picked up by the media in what he deems a timely manner.
The interview concluded with a grossly dishonest comment, even for Breitbart. Responding to a question about what "else folks should know about" him, Breitbart began his response by saying: "Believe it or not, one of my primary motives on this planet is to stop this racism, and to stop the Democratic Party's use of race that divides us intentionally."
Given that Breitbart released the edited Sherrod video claiming it showed "evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee" before knowing all the facts, it's hard to believe him.
On his Fox News show tonight, Bill O'Reilly hosted former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to opine on whether President Obama is "avoiding unpleasant realities of race." Responding to Brown's comment that Obama has "been somewhat successful when the issue of race has surfaced without his guidance," O'Reilly complained that every time he talks about race his words "get taken out of context" and "he's branded a racist." But O'Reilly has a history of making racially charged statements:
Media Matters provided the full context of O'Reilly's remarks in documenting each of those examples when they occurred, including video or audio, and in most cases transcript. O'Reilly's complaints about being taken out of context ring hollow.
Media conservatives, including Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, have continued the right wing's attacks on Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from her position at the Department of Agriculture after Andrew Breitbart posted edited video of a speech she gave to falsely label her a racist. These conservatives have branded Sherrod a Marxist, Maoist, communist, and socialist.
Glenn Beck distorted Ruth Bader Ginsburg's comments on abortion to suggest she supports "cleansing" America of "unwanted populations." In fact, Ginsburg was attributing that sentiment to others, not adopting it herself.
On The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly attacked Eric Holder as the worst attorney general in history, claiming that he has taken the mantle" from Janet Reno. This is just the latest in a litany of attacks O'Reilly has leveled at Reno and Holder.
O'Reilly has repeatedly attacked Reno and Holder with falsehoods and distortions. For instance, O'Reilly falsely claimed that "Eric Holder and Janet Reno put the wall between the FBI and the CIA," which led to the 9-11 attacks. Further, he falsely claimed that "Holder was second in command to Janet Reno" at the time the "wall" was created. He made similar false claims about Holder and Reno previously.
And just last week, O'Reilly criticized Holder for not pursuing criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party. Referencing the decision not to press criminal charges, O'Reilly said that Holder "did it" because "his ideology comes into every decision." But as Media Matters has repeatedly pointed out, it was Bush's DOJ that decided to file a civil, not criminal, complaint.
Even if O'Reilly's attacks on Holder were true -- which they clearly are not -- they would be far outstripped by Nixon Attorney General and Watergate criminal John Mitchell. As The Washington Post notes of Mitchell:
Nixon's former law partner served as attorney general before resigning in 1972 to head the Committee for the Re-election of the President. He stood trial in 1974 and was convicted on charges of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice. He served 19 months in a minimum-security prison in Alabama before being released on parole for medical reasons.
In September 1972, stories by The Washington Post linked Mitchell to a secret campaign fund that paid for the Watergate burglary. When Post reporter Carl Bemstein called for a comment, Mitchell directed his response at the Post's publisher:"Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's ever published." According to later testimony, Mitchell approved $250,000 for the break-in.
But once again, it's easier for O'Reilly to launch an unsubstantiated attack than deal with the facts.
Media figures have emphasized the fact that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is technically "bipartisan" to hype its investigation of the Justice Department's actions in the New Black Panther Party case. In reality, the commission's chair has acknowledged that conservatives "gam[ed] the system" and packed the panel with conservative activists, and the commission's two Democrats, as well as one Republican, have criticized the investigation.
Radio host Jay Severin distorted an Indonesian film about President Obama's childhood to bring up a couple of long-since debunked myths about Obama.
On his radio show on WTKK in Boston, Severin invoked both the madrassa and the birther myths -- a pair of ridiculous falsehoods that have been thoroughly discredited.
From the June 30 edition of WTKK's The Jay Severin Show:
SEVERIN: The biography film of Barack Obama being shown in Indonesia has scenes of the young Barack Hussein Obama in a madrassa reading a Quran. Yes, of course it does. It is, after all, a biography. And a biography, a correct biography, an accurate biography, of the president of the United States, who has never produced a birth certificate, and about whose birth there are perfectly legitimate questions -- not conclusions, but perfectly legitimate questions -- his biography, the film of him as a young man, has scenes of him reading the Quran in a madrassa. Surprised? We oughtn't be.
There's a lot to unpack there. First, as a boy in Indonesia, Obama did not attend a madrassa. That myth started with an article in the now-defunct Insight magazine, which reported on speculation that the "the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended" might have taught "a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims." The story was quickly debunked by CNN and later by the Associated Press and ABC. But the madrassa smear nonetheless created a buzz in the conservative media, which used it to all but label Obama a Manchurian candidate.
Next, the birther falsehood. Severin's claim that Obama "has never produced a birth certificate" is preposterously false. In fact, the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed that the birth certificate posted online by the Obama campaign is "a valid Hawaii state birth certificate" and has called speculation about Obama's citizenship "pretty ridiculous." Further, announcements of Obama's birth appeared in two different Honolulu newspapers when he was born in 1961.
Severin's statements about the film, Obama Anak Menteng, are contradicted by the film's director and screenwriter, Damien Dematra. Severin suggests the film is "a correct biography, an accurate biography," but in an interview with Time magazine, Dematra stated that the film is "around 60 percent facts and 40 percent fiction." He wasn't trying to make an "accurate biography." Dematra added that a scene of Obama praying toward Mecca was omitted from the movie because people "were trying to use it as a political weapon against the president" and "taking [the] scene out of context."
During the segment, Severin also stated that in light of recent events, "the birthers look less ridiculous." After his radio show today, the same can't be said of Jay Severin.