After some friendly stops on his Righteous Indignation book tour, Andrew Breitbart has finally had to answer questions about video he posted of a speech by then-USDA official Shirley Sherrod that painted Sherrod as racist. Breitbart has apparently settled on his response to questions on the subject: He's going to lie about what he initially said about Sherrod.
As a refresher, the video Breitbart posted was deceptively edited to suggest that Sherrod, an African American, did not do all she could to help a white farmer stave off foreclosure on his farm when in fact, Sherrod went to great lengths to help the white farmer. But today, Breitbart suggested in an interview with David Shuster that he did not misrepresent Sherrod's comments because he said in his initial post that "[e]ventually, her basic humanity informs her to help the white farmer."
He said the same thing today to MSNBC's Martin Bashir during a combative interview in which Bashir repeatedly challenged Breitbart regarding his attacks on Sherrod and other topics. In response to Bashir's insistence that Breitbart answer the simple questions Bashir posed, Breitbart grew increasingly agitated and made several flailing attempts to cast blame on others. Here's the video:
Breitbart's defense suffers from two major problems:
First, it's flat-out untrue. Breitbart did not say in his initial post that "eventually, her basic humanity informs her to help the white farmer."
The second problem is at least as serious. Breitbart is falsely suggesting that he did in fact provide the context of Sherrod's tale of redemption and racial understanding when, in reality, someone who read Breitbart's initial blog post would come away thinking that Sherrod had ended up treating the white farmer in a racist, unfair way. In reality, she did nothing of the sort.
Breitbart Lies About His Initial Sherrod Post
In his initial post on Sherrod, Breitbart did not say "eventually, her basic humanity informs her to help the white farmer," as he now claims. Rather he said: "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." He then labeled Sherrod's story "racist." From Breitbart's July 19, 2010, blog post:
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.
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. [emphasis added]
Breitbart Falsely Suggests He Provided The Full Context Of Sherrod's Tale Of Redemption
Breitbart's larger point, that he provided the full context of Sherrod's comments, is nonsense. Breitbart's post and video make it seem that, rather than provide substantial help to the white farmer, Sherrod got rid of him by sending him to a white lawyer. But the truth is that Sherrod herself provided real aid to the farmer.
Breitbart told Bashir that his initial post said that Sherrod's "basic humanity informs her to help the white farmer," but "other media took it and cut off that part and talked about it on TV, and so I ended up being captive to the fact that other people selectively edited it out my entire 1400-word argument." Breitbart also said that, while covering the story, Glenn Beck "cut out the part where she said -- that I kept in the video -- that said it's not about black versus white, it's about rich versus poor, which is her redemptive arc, which complements, which was in the piece, it said eventually her humanity informed her to help the white farmer."
But Breitbart did not come close to describing the "redemptive arc" that Sherrod followed. As we explained, Sherrod, in the part of the video Breitbart included in his original post, said she initially did not give the white farmer "the full force of what I could do" and "took him to a white lawyer" so that "his own kind could help him." The video Breitbart posted also includes this statement from Sherrod: "That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white. It is about white and black, but it's not -- you know, it opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own."
Breitbart's clip of Sherrod story about the white farmer ends there. But that's not where Sherrod's story ended. She subsequently went to much greater lengths to help the farmer. Sherrod said in her speech:
SHERROD: So, everything was going along fine -- I'm thinking he's being taken care of by the white lawyer, then they lift the injunction against USDA in May of '87 for two weeks and he was one of 13 farmers in Georgia who received a foreclosure notice. He called me. I said, well, go on and make an appointment at the lawyer. Let me know when it is and I'll meet you there.
So we met at the lawyer's office on the day they had given him. And this lawyer sat there -- he had been paying this lawyer, y'all. That's what got me. He had been paying the lawyer since November, and this was May. And the lawyer sat there and looked at him and said, "Well, y'all are getting old. Why don't you just let the farm go?" I could not believe he said that, so I said to the lawyer -- I told him, I can't believe you said that. I said: It's obvious to me that he cannot file a Chapter 12 bankruptcy to stop this foreclose, you have to file an 11. And the lawyer said to me, I'll do whatever you say -- whatever you think -- that's the way he put it. But he's paying him. He wasn't paying me any money. You know, so he said -- the lawyer said he would work on it.
And then, about seven days before that man would have been sold at the courthouse steps, the farmer called me and said the lawyer wasn't doing anything. And that's when I spent time there in my office calling everybody I could think so to try to see -- help me find the lawyer who would handle this.
The rest of Sherrod's story can be seen and read here.
Following Breitbart's initial post, CNN interviewed the white farmer who Breitbart had described as a victim of Sherrod's discrimination. He said her critics "don't know what they're talking about" and that Sherrod had done "her level best" to help him save his farm.
But remember, from Breitbart's initial post and video, you would think that Sherrod only helped the farmer by referring him to a white lawyer so "one of his own kind could help him."
Breitbart's initial post also suggested that Sherrod's interactions with the white farmer occurred while Sherrod was an Obama administration official. In fact, those actions occurred long before she worked for the Obama administration, and Breitbart has issued a correction saying "While Ms. Sherrod made the remarks captured in the first video featured in this post while she held a federally appointed position, the story she tells refers to actions she took before she held that federal position."
Furthermore, on the same day he first posted on Sherrod, Breitbart suggested there should be a federal investigation of Sherrod, tweeting: "Will Eric Holder's DOJ hold accountable fed appointee Shirley Sherrod for admitting practical racial discrimination?"
But when the full story finally came out, one important person said the video Breitbart posted took things out of context: Breitbart himself. During a Newsweek interview back in July 2010, reporter Daniel Stone asked Breitbart: "But do you agree that the edited video took things out of context?" Breitbart responded:
Well, yes. But I put up what I had. It granted a great portion of her redemptive tale, but not all of it. If I could do it all over again, I should have waited for the full video to get to me.
That statement to Newsweek is about as honest as Breitbart has gotten in all his comments about Sherrod.