Breitbart's pathetic attempt to "vindicate" himself over his Sherrod smear

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

We've already taken apart Andrew Breitbart's 1,800-word screed from earlier this week patting himself on the back for his awesome and entirely in-context reporting in July about how Shirley Sherrod is a racist. But I think it's worth examining his wholly fabricated tale that Sherrod was really fired not due to Breitbart's blog post using out of context video snippets to call her a racist, but because of her role in the Pigford class-action lawsuit.

In his blog post, Breitbart writes:

Despite the firestorm, there was still an unanswered question -- why on God's green earth was Shirley Sherrod fired?

My 1400-word piece said Sherrod helped the white farmer. The controversial video clip featured the basis for her defense, The President and Tom Vilsack were doubly informed of the whole story by both me and Sherrod herself.

After highlighting a handful of individuals who mentioned Sherrod's Pigford connection in discussing her firing, Breitbart pointed to former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's July 25 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he wrote:

As an old pro, though, I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place.

This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN.

I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place.

You see? It wasn't really Breitbart's fault that Sherrod got fired! He provided all the context needed to show that she wasn't racist (pay no attention to his headline calling her "racist"), but the Agriculture Department wanted her gone because of Pigford! Like he told the Daily Caller, this is his "vindication"!

In July, Brown was speculating absent anything resembling evidence. Now, Breitbart is using that speculation to justify his ludicrous smear of Sherrod and pretend it didn't force her firing. But in between, reporting emerged that pretty much demolishes this wild conspiracy theory.

In October, Breitbart's hometown newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, reported on "Hundreds of pages of e-mails" about Sherrod's firing released to the paper under the Freedom of Information Act. If Breitbart's Sherrod theory were true, you'd think that the emails would reveal some evidence of it.

But the LA Times article doesn't mention Pigford. Instead, it provides example after example of Agriculture Department officials wringing their hands over the snippets of video posted on Breitbart's website:

The first sign of trouble arrived about 2 p.m. on July 19, in an e-mail from USDA communications staffer Wayne Maloney.

Maloney informed Chris Mather, the department's director of communications, that a video had popped up online and that a conservative website soon would publicize it.

"It speaks for itself and you need to watch it right away," Maloney writes.

Mather's response was blunt. "THIS IS HORRIBLE," she wrote as she sent notice -- subject line "Super Urgent" -- up the chain of command to Karen Ross, Vilsack's chief of staff, and her deputy, Carole Jett.

It took just an hour and a half to get a directive from Vilsack. "The S [Secretary Vilsack] is absolutely sick and mad over the S Sherrod issue. He wants her immediately on adm leave," wrote Krysta Harden, assistant secretary of congressional relations.

Cook responded simply, "Done."

Five minutes later, Cook reached Sherrod on a cellphone. Sherrod gave her side of the story, according to a timeline assembled by Cook.

Cook and Dallas Tonsager, undersecretary of rural development, said in an e-mail sent to Vilsack a few minutes later that the subject of the speech was blacks and whites working together.

"She said there is a copy of the entire speech, and Cheryl asked her to provide it as quickly as possible," the e-mails said.

But Vilsack did not wait. An hour later, Cook called Sherrod, who was driving in Georgia, to ask her to resign. Another hour later, Cook called Sherrod again to ask her to resign by the end of the day.

"I called her a fourth time at 6:35 to ask whether she'd be willing to pull over to the side of the road and submit a resignation by email," Cook writes in the account.

The Agriculture Department officials made a horrible mistake: They read Breitbart's blog post and accepted it as true. They thought he actually had provided "video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee." They were so worried about the potential blowback that they rushed to fire Sherrod without considering the source and his record, or waiting to examine the full context.

The Agriculture Department fired Sherrod because they believed what Breitbart wrote about her. She got caught up in Breitbart's political attacks, and she suffered for it. That's what happened. Now Breitbart is lashing out at his political opponents and spinning crazy conspiracies to get himself off the hook.

I'm told that conservatives believe in personal responsibility. It's time for Breitbart to demonstrate some. His current tactic is just sad.

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