Attorneys For The Estate Of Andrew Breitbart Threatened With Contempt Of Court In The Shirley Sherrod Matter

Andrew BreitbartEven in death Andrew Breitbart manages to be a major league dickwad.

Last week attorneys representing his estate, in a case where he was being sued for libel by former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, failed to answer the court’s questions regarding the estate’s finances. When the lawyers couldn’t even tell the judge whether or not Breitbart had a will when he died, the judge became skeptical and threatened to charge them with contempt of court.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said he was mystified that Breitbart’s attorneys from Katten Muchin did not know whether or not Breitbart died intestate and said he feared that the firm and Breitbart’s estate — or whatever entity may be in ownership of the late blogger’s assets — were being evasive and uncooperative in the case.

“This court expects a law firm of the stature of Katten Muchin to not be a party to games like this, at least as the court sees it,” Judge Leon said.

Back in 2010, Breitbart posted a video of Sherrod on his web site that falsely portrayed her as engaging in racially biased behavior in her duties as a government employee. The unedited video shows that, in fact, she was telling a story about something that had occurred twenty years earlier, before she worked for the government, and actually had a message of equality and tolerance. Nevertheless, Breitbart refused to apologize or retract his defamatory articles.

Sherrod sued Breitbart, who evaded accountability by dying. And now his lawyers are continuing his legacy of shameful deceit by dodging the court’s legitimate inquiries into his finances. The boneheads that assumed control of Breitbart’s web sites have cemented their reputation for bombastic dishonesty and tabloid-like perversions of journalism to an extent that might even have embarrassed Breitbart. But they cannot continue to avoid the legal scrutiny in this case, and will eventually have to pay for their disgraceful smear campaign against Sherrod.

Don’t Forget Andrew Breitbart’s Legacy Of Sleaze

With calls mounting for Anthony Weiner to resign, it would be prudent to take a look back at the public record of his accuser. It is Andrew Breitbart whose behavior is most repulsive and destructive. He is a liar and a hypocrite and causes far more harm than a horny congressman who never actually engaged in any sexual misconduct. If anyone should resign and skulk away in shame, it’s Breitbart.

[The following News Corpse article was originally published by Alternet]

Andrew BreitbartPublic apologies are often the source of captivating and prurient entertainment. There seems to be a genetic compulsion in the human DNA to observe our heroes, celebrities, and, of course, adversaries, fall from grace and beg forgiveness. This week we saw what may be Rep. Anthony Weiner’s curtain call but, like any good melodrama, he was upstaged by an ambitious and vainglorious rival, Andrew Breitbart.

After commandeering the podium at Weiner’s press conference, Breitbart declared “I’m here for some vindication.” He portrayed himself as a media-contrived victim of character assassination and challenged the reporters in the room substantiate their alleged assaults on his reputation.

“The media says ‘Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies.’ Give me one example of a provable lie. One. One. Journalists? One. Put your reputation on the line here.”

For some reason, no one in the room responded. It’s almost as if the press were clueless stenographers, unfamiliar with Breitbart’s past, and were incapable of providing a substantive rebuttal.

This is actually fairly typical of the modern press corps. Another example occurred when the New York Times asked Breitbart about the Weiner affair on Saturday and he attempted to strike a non-partisan tone saying that…

“I am as offended when John Ensign acts like an idiot, when Chris Lee acts like an idiot.”

Really? What the Times failed to note was that Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog did not publish a single story about the travails of either Ensign or Lee. Not one single story. How offended was he? Compare that to his obsession with Weiner that produced 17 separate stories and consumed every single headline (except for the plug for his lame book), and that was four full days after the story broke.


For those who are interested, including members of the press who were struck dumb at the press conference, here is a brief compilation of Breitbart’s reportorial resume, replete with dishonesty and deliberate disinformation. Feel free to offer these in response to Breitbart’s future challenges. We will await his profuse and heartfelt apologies.

1) ACORN: Breibart’s web site was the central agency for disseminating videos that were later shown to have been heavily edited in order to convey a fictional scenario that smeared a social service organization that had for years been assisting low income citizens with financial advice and voter registration. Every investigation of the affair exonerated ACORN and affirmed the deception of the videos. Breitbart’s henchman, James O’Keefe, is currently being sued by former ACORN employee, Juan Carlos Vera.

2) Shirley Sherrod: In this episode, Breitbart was responsible for slandering a USDA employee as a racist. Lately he has been defending himself by saying that he had included the “redemptive arc” of her story that revealed her innocence. But let’s not forget how he originally portrayed the situation:

“In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions. [...] In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.”

That is a pretty clear accusation of discriminatory behavior on the part of a federal employee. And it is also a lie. Sherrod did not discriminate against the farmer, as Breitbart later acknowledged, and the story she told was of an incident that occurred 20 years before she held a federal post. Nevertheless, Breitbart’s reaction at the time was another demonstration of his paranoid Narcissism as he whined, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well.” Poor guy. Sherrod is currently suing Breitbart.

3) Clinton Plotting a Tea Party Attack: Breitbart published a story with no evidence, about an alleged conspiracy that never came to pass:

“Big Government has learned that Clintonistas are plotting a ‘push/pull’ strategy. They plan to identify 7-8 national figures active in the tea party movement and engage in deep opposition research on them. If possible, they will identify one or two they can perhaps ‘turn’, either with money or threats, to create a mole in the movement. The others will be subjected to a full-on smear campaign.”

Also never coming to pass…a retraction. This story bubbled up through the media like much of Breitbart’s fiction, eventually getting coverage from Fox Nation.

4) Jason Mattera’s Punking of Grayson and Franken: Jason Mattera, who later became editor of Human Events, was employed to run a couple of “ambush” interviews that were posted on Breitbart’s web site. One interview targeted Rep. Alan Grayson and castigated him for his support of bill that funded a program to prevent child abuse. The other interview was directed at Sen Al Franken who was attacked for supporting student health and school safety. In both cases Mattera twisted the purpose of the legislation into something unrecognizable and patently false. Expect more of this because, as Breitbart says in his book, Righteous Indignation, “Ambush journalism is the most valuable kind of journalism.”

5) University of Missouri Labor Class: In another phony video sting, Breitbart published a video of the proceedings of a class on the history of labor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. As usual, the video was a deceitful mash-up that misrepresented the professors and students as supporting violent labor activity. The twist here is that it was Breitbart’s one-time friend Glenn Beck who published an accounting of the video deception and vindicated the professors. As a bonus intrigue, the party from whom Breitbart got the UM video is identified only as Insurgent Visuals. That, however, may be a ruse to disguise Breitbart’s long-time partner in crime, James O’Keefe.

6) Beck’s Back Alley Snitch: Speaking of Glenn Beck, in happier times when the two weren’t feuding, Breibart was the source for numerous Beck offensives. He provided Beck with scandalous material on Van Jones who, at the time, was a White House adviser on environmental initiatives. Beck lauded Breitbart, saying…

“You know where the great journalists of our time are? Andrew Breitbart. [...] You were the only one, besides watchdogs, that were really aggressively working behind the scenes with us on Van Jones.”

The same thing occurred with Yosi Sergant, communications director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Breitbart went after him and provided the data to Beck, who said…

“This is again another Breitbart story, where the NEA communications director reached out and said, hey, listen, we have to be very careful with our language here.”

In both cases the information provided by Breitbart was vague and/or untrue, but both Jones and Sergant were jettisoned — just as Sherrod was — by a nervous White House for violations that were either false or greatly exaggerated.

7) Democrats Plotted to Blame Tea Party for Slaughter: Breitbart’s site featured an article that made the sensationalist claim that Democrats devised a plan to blame the Tea Party for the tragic shooting in Tucson, AZ. The allegation consisted of a single, unidentified source who merely offered his own opinion that the massacre could be pinned on Tea Partiers. There was no allegation of a conspiracy or even of any discussions of such a plan by anyone connected to the Democratic Party. But that didn’t stop Breitbart from posting the story with an irresponsibly provocative headline.

8) The Abbie Boudreau Affair: In one of the most bizarre adventures by the James O’Keefe gang, they set out to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau into a floating love nest to embarrass her in some manner that was never really explained. While Breitbart did not act as the agent for this prank, he did provide a platform for O’Keefe to publish his defense after having been outed by an accomplice. O’Keefe managed to take a situation in which he appeared to be a revolting pervert and make it worse by saying about Boudreau…

“She would have had to consent before being filmed and she was not going to be faux ‘seduced’ unless she wanted to be.”

Considering the fact that he never sought the consent of his previous video victims, why should we accept his assertion that he was going to start seeking consent now? Even more troubling is his implication that his intended victim “wanted” it. O’Keefe is resorting to the disgusting defense that rapists offer about their victims. And Breitbart permitted this to be published on his site.

9) GEICO Gecko – Tea Party Crasher? Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog posted a mind-numbingly stupid article that accused Ricky Gervais, the actor/comedian and voice of the GEICO Gecko of disparaging the Tea Party in a profanity-laced voice-mail. The only problem is that Gervais had nothing to do with it. It was an actor (D.C. Douglas) who worked for GEICO a couple of years prior. But it wasn’t enough to smear Gervais with insinuations, Breitbart also posted a picture of the Gecko atop a table that was adorned with a poster of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. What that had to do with the story is anyone’s guess. It just appeared to be a gratuitous slap at the President while falsely slandering Gervais.

10) Racism: Breitbart is obsessed with the theme of racism. He is convinced that the charge is thrown around cavalierly, and mostly to insult Tea Partiers and himself. He embarked on a campaign to prove that congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis, was lying when he said that he had been the victim of racial epithets when attending a congressional rally. He regards the Shirley Sherrod incident as an example of the racism demonstrated by the NAACP. But when discussing allegations of his own prejudice, Breitbart said this to radio host Adam Carolla:

“Can I prove that I’m not a racist toward Hispanics? Did you ever see Moscow on the Hudson? Remember Maria Conchita Alonso in that? The things I did to myself as a teenager prove that I’m not a racist.”

So Breitbart’s proof that he is not a racist is that he used to masturbate to pictures of a Latino actress. That defense would also work pretty well to prove that colonial plantation masters weren’t racist either because they routinely raped their slaves. Breitbart’s repulsive pride in his perverse view of racial open-mindedness tells us much about him. And he is certainly in no position to assess the veracity of people like John Lewis.

This should be a good starting point for the press in case they ever get the chance again to respond to Breitbart’s call for evidence of his dishonesty and low character. Here’s hoping that they are listening and that no one presumes to use the Weiner affair to rehabilitate Breitbart’s deservedly sleazy reputation. Just because Breitbart lucked into being correct (like a broken clock) doesn’t mean that his long-established pattern of deception should be dismissed. Just because Charles Manson didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe doesn’t mean that he’s innocent of every other crime attributed to him.

Breitbart deserves no accolades over this. His reputation cannot be rehabilitated after one lucky scoop sent to him by a Twitter stalker. And he still owes the many people he deliberately harmed an apology. Weiner, at least, was man enough to own up to his mistakes, eventually. Will Breitbart ever do the same? Not likely.

Foxophobia: What If Fox News Finds Out?

Last month I received a fundraising email from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. The Center collects, preserves, and exhibits posters relating to historical and contemporary movements for social change and has a library of more than 75,000 items. The solicitation noted the importance of individual donations due to the difficulty of obtaining funding from the government agencies that administer grants to the arts and archival organizations.

One particular part of the email was jarring for what it revealed about the decision making process of this administration. In an inquiry regarding their grant application, the Center’s director, Carol Wells, sought to gauge their chances of being successful and had this exchange with an agency representative:

Just before our most recent Federal submission we again asked about the political content and were told, “as you are writing the proposal, ask yourself this question:

“What if Fox News found out that U.S. tax dollars were being used to support your project. How would it look, how would it fly?”

HypersensitiveThe notion that Fox News’ mindset should serve as the benchmark for whether prospective arts endeavors are deserving of our tax dollars is insane, and more than a little frightening. And if it is difficult to accept that there is someone presently working for a government agency who is employing that criteria, then how much more frightening would it be to learn that this malignant perspective has spread through much of the body of our government? To be sure, all administrations are sensitive to reactions from the media, the public, and political peers, but for this administration to defer to Fox News, given their history, is mind boggling.

Barack Obama has been under attack by Fox News since before he was even elected. He was the subject of delusional allegations that questioned his patriotism, his citizenship, and his faith. The absurdities Fox promoted ranged from trivial associations with a former preacher to noxious accusations of “Palling Around with Terrorists.” It was a non-stop barrage that continued throughout the campaign and into his presidency where, if you can believe it, it escalated further.

On inauguration day Fox News anchors posited that Obama was not actually president because Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office. It went downhill from there. As president, Obama was called a “racist with a deep seated hatred of white people.” He has been castigated as a communist, a fascist, an atheist, and perhaps worst of all, an elitist. The vitriol exceeded all bounds of civility. It was the soil from which the Tea Party sprouted along with the portrayal of Obama as an enemy of the state who is seeking to deliberately destroy the country.

Early on the administration recognized the toxic environment that was being created. There was a short-lived embargo of administration officials appearing on Fox. Anita Dunn, the former White House director of communications, told Howard Kurtz on CNN that Fox News is “a wing of the Republican Party.” Both Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod correctly observed that Fox “is not a news organization.” But the courage demonstrated by these positions quickly dissipated as the White House shifted tactics from confrontation to capitulation.

In one of the first examples of the Obama team folding under pressure from Fox News, Van Jones, a White House advisor to the Council on Environmental Quality, resigned subsequent to a relentless smear campaign by Glenn Beck and others at Fox. Jones was followed out the door by Yosi Sergant, Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts, who was similarly hounded by Fox.

Perhaps the most egregious moral buckling was exhibited in the administration’s disengagement from Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. In a video originally disseminated by the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, Sherrod was falsely portrayed as discriminating racially against a white farmer who had sought assistance from the department. It was later revealed that the video was deceptively edited to give an impression that was diametrically opposed to reality. After being featured in various segments on Fox News and elsewhere, Sherrod was asked to resign. Sherrod told the press that there was an urgency to the request due to the fear that the controversy was “going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”

For his part, Glenn Beck theorized that the whole affair was a premeditated plot by the White House to “destroy the credibility of Fox News?” As if that hadn’t already been accomplished by Fox News itself (and particularly Beck) without any need for help from the White House. Nevertheless, leave it to Beck to concoct a theory that borders on psychosis.

This knee-jerk Foxophobia is evident in policy as well as personnel. Fox’s harping on issues ranging from the closure of Guantanamo Bay to the inclusion of so-called “death panels” in the the health care bill, resulted in those initiatives being abandoned. Obama was often seen in retreat after Fox newsers complained about the handling of the Census, the arrest of a Harvard professor, or the non-mosque that was not at Ground Zero. At times it appeared as if Fox had a greater impact on Obama’s agenda than his cabinet – or public opinion.

By acquiescing to a de facto Fox litmus test you produce scenarios wherein Fox objects to an art exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute, followed by Congress drafting legislation to defend the Smithsonian. Or NPR terminates a correspondent for making offensive statements at his other job on Fox, and Congress moves to defund NPR. Do we really want a network that specializes in conservative tabloid sensationalism conducting political payback like this?

Now, after all of the dishonest, hyperbolic, caterwauling from Fox, Obama is rewarding that network with an exclusive interview preceding the Superbowl. And more disturbing than just the fact that Obama would sit down with this phony news network, the Fox anchor pegged to conduct the interview is not one of their supposed journalists like Bret Baier or Wendell Goler. It is Bill O’Reilly, someone even Fox doesn’t regard as a newsman. In fact, O’Reilly’s boss, Roger Ailes, said that it’s a mistake to look at Fox News Channel’s primetime opinion shows and say they represent the channel’s journalism.” What would Fox think if Obama gave the interview to Rachel Maddow? How would that fly?

Moreover, the real mistake is for any Democrat or progressive to agree to appear on Fox News. They will only be abused while they lend their credibility to a network that hasn’t earned any of their own. Nevertheless, President Obama still sees fit to sit still for a non-journalist on a network that portrays him as an alien socialist bent on collapsing the nation’s economy and the nation itself.

This administration needs to take more seriously the threat presented by a massive, international media conglomerate that has made no secret of its disdain for the President and his agenda. And it is in its own best interest to cease kowtowing to Fox and being so concerned about what they think of his people and policies. Criticisms from Fox should be heralded by administration spokespeople. They should be embraced and repeated (and mocked) at every opportunity. They should be regarded as affirmation that you’re on the right track.

Conversely, bureaucratic flunkies like the one who quoted above, who worry about whether something will fly with Fox News, need to be rooted out and reeducated. If there is a test for whether the administration should proceed with an appointment or a policy initiative it should be based on the merits, not on what will happen when Fox News finds out.

The Breitbart Saga Whines On (And On)

Poor Breitbart
Cowardly Andrew BreitbartThe chronically choleric Andrew Breitbart now sees himself as the aggrieved party in the Shirley Sherrod affair that he instigated. This pathetic attempt to curry sympathy is uncharacteristic of Breitbart who ordinarily blusters his way through criticism and fiercely attacks his critics. Why the change in behavior? Could he be worried about Sherrod’s forthcoming lawsuit? This is what he told Newsweek:

Newsweek: Can you understand how this has been difficult for her to get caught up in that?
Breitbart: As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well, especially to hear her hurl an accusation of racism at me, when my motivation is absolutely pure and is driven by a desire for this country to move beyond its horrid racist past.

Was his motivation “absolutely pure” when he posted a deceptively edited video and portrayed Sherrod as a racist? Breitbart also admitted to Newsweek that the video took Sherrod out of context, and given two separate opportunities to apologize, Breitbart declined and made excuses instead. That didn’t stop him from expressing his desire to meet with Sherrod in private. If she takes him up on that she had better go wired for sound and video. I bet she could get some juicy clips.

The Wall Street Jackal
It’s interesting that Sherrod’s announcement the she intends to sue Breitbart has not been reported as a news item on Fox News, so far as I have been able to determine (if someone has evidence of such a report, please pass it along). But what Fox may be trying to sweep under the rug, the Wall Street Journal has taken on in the form of a defensive editorial by the editor of their online op-ed pages, James Taranto.

Taranto begins by surmising that Sherrod’s lawsuit would probably fail. His reasoning centered on his assertion that she was a public official and involved claims about the performance of her public duties. Sherrod was indeed an employee of the Department of Agriculture. That may make her a public official of sorts, but she was clearly not a public figure. By Taranto’s logic anyone working for the Post Office would be exempt from protection against defamation. Furthermore, Taranto was wrong in stating the the incident involved claims about the performance of her public duties. There was nothing of the sort in Sherrod’s speech before the NAACP. She was relating events that occurred 24 years earlier, before her employment with the USDA.

Finally, Taranto implied that it would be difficult for Sherrod to prove malicious intent on Breitbart’s part. It seems to me that Breitbart’s malice is fairly evident. By his own account, he had the video for months but never attempted to ascertain its validity or acquire an unedited version before posting it. Plus, he confessed to Newsweek that he knew it was out of context. Add to that his lack of remorse and his defiance in the face of evidence that his actions were defamatory, and you have a pretty good case for malice.

Taranto found it strange that Sherrod “issued this threat” of litigation before the National Association of Black Journalists. But Sherrod did not issue a threat. She answered a question. Taranto continued to be confused by the applause Sherrod received when she indicated her intention to sue Breitbart. This spurred Taranto to ask…

What kind of journalist would applaud the threat of a defamation lawsuit?

How about a journalist who takes pride in his work and is offended by pseudo-journalists who tarnish the profession? Taranto went on to make this absurd claim:

Journalists have an institutional interest in maximizing the scope of First Amendment protections, and that means keeping it as hard as possible for plaintiffs to sue for defamation.

I have no idea where he came up with that bit of lunacy. Reputable journalists who refrain from defaming people have no problem with defamation suits. It is part of the process of keeping them honest. Taranto’s argument would have gun owners opposed to laws against murder. But just as most gun owners support laws against murder, most journalists support laws against defamation.

Steele Interrupted
A scheduled fundraising event by Michael Steele’s Republican National Committee that was to feature Breibart has been “postponed.” The event was to be held at the swanky Beverly-Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills in just two weeks. This last-minute cancellation is curious considering the complex logistics in putting together a high-profile affair like this. It may or may not have had anything to do with Breitbart’s participation and the embarrassment that may entail, but when you also know that Steele backed out of an appearance before the same convention of black journalists that Sherrod attended, it does raise suspicions.

Uni-Tea: More Like Whi-Tea
Breitbart was a featured speaker at the Uni-Tea rally in Philly yesterday. The event was designed to promote the racial and ethnic diversity within of Tea Party. They did manage to assemble a pretty diverse roster of speakers, but reports from the field say that the crowd, which was far smaller than expected, contained few people of color. Thus, Breitbart spent twenty minutes assuring the predominately white Tea Baggers that they weren’t racists. I’m sure they feel better now.

Coming Attractions
Look for Breitbart’s highly anticipated appearance at the National Tea Party Unity Convention in Las Vegas in October. This event was originally scheduled for mid July, but was postponed due to lameness. Also appearing will be Sharron Angle, Lou Dobbs and Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily. This lineup up just screams unity.

Following that, Breitbart is amongst the seafarers embarking on a three-hour eight day post-election cruise sponsored by the National Review. If you ever dreamed of being shipmates with Breitbart, as well as Karl Rove, Phyllis Schlafly, Jonah Goldberg, Tony Blankley, Scott Rasmussen, Thurston Howell III, and more, then you probably awoke mopping up sweat. By the way, isn’t Rasmussen supposed to be a non-partisan pollster?

FYI: Here is a composite view of the National Review Cruise’s itinerary and the path of the Gulf oil spill:

Looks like they’re taking the scenic route.

Shirley Sherrod To Sue Cowardly Andrew Breitbart

Cowardly Andrew BreitbartShirley Sherrod spoke today at a convention for the National Association of Black Journalists. Andrew Breitbart was also invited to speak. He initially accepted the invitation but later rescinded his acceptance. Perhaps he chickened out after he heard that Sherrod would be there.

Breitbart has good reason to be afraid. During her remarks Sherrod noted that she would “definitely” sue Breitbart for posting a grossly deceptive video that implied that Sherrod was a racist. She added that “He had to know that he was targeting me.” She further noted that Breitbart has not apologized and that, at this point, she’s not interested. She is clearly a women who knows her own mind and knows racism when she sees it:

“I saw it in what they did, in what Fox did and in what Breitbart did. I knew it was racism when it happened to me, and no one had to tell me that.”

It’s interesting that Bill O’Reilly saw fit to apologize to Sherrod. Fox News Sr. VP Michael Clemente even acknowledged a “breakdown” within his news operation. But Breitbart said that he has nothing for which to apologize. And Breitbart crony Brent Bozell of the uber-conservative Media Research Center said that Sherrod should apologize to Breitbart and Fox. These people are seriously ill.

Contrast that with the comments by President Obama today in a speech before the National Urban League (which was carried live by CNN and MSNBC, but not by Fox News):

“Now, last week, I had the chance to talk to Shirley Sherrod, an exemplary woman whose experiences mark both the challenges we have faced and the progress that we’ve made. She deserves better than what happened last week when a bogus controversy based on selective and deceiving excerpts of a speech led her led to her forced resignation.

Now, many are to blame for the reaction and overreaction that followed these comments, including my own administration. And what I said to Shirley was that the full story she was trying to tell, a story about overcoming our own biases and recognizing ourselves in folks who, on the surface, seem different, is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America.”

Why is the right so incapable of exhibiting the slightest bit of decency, humility, or honor? Sherrod was clearly defamed and she deserves her day in court. In fact, it wouldn’t be so bad if the case was expanded to a class action against Breitbart and Fox News with the addition of Van Jones and ACORN as complainants. They were every bit as much victims of Breitbart and Fox. And if Sherrod creates a legal defense fund I will be happy to donate and to promote it.

Old Media Hacks And New Media Whores

The Shirley Sherrod story has been an embarrassment to just about everyone concerned. The White House, the Department of Agriculture, Fox News, and many in the conventional news bureaus and the conservative Internet. Sadly the person who should be most embarrassed is Andrew Breitbart who, due to his suffering from an acute case of sociopathic narcissism, is incapable of registering normal expressions of shame or decency.

Surprisingly, this unfortunate affair has produced a remarkable eruption of insight from an unlikely source. Mark Halperin of Time Magazine has owned up to a failing of the Convention Media that is not often acknowledged by someone within their own ranks:

“The Sherrod story is a reminder [...] that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny.”

No shit! This is something that has been obvious to conscious observers for years. The right has so befuddled the cowardly martinets of the media that any whiff of potential liberalism is received with a near hysterical recoiling. Regardless of how rooted in the truth it is, grown reporters and editors flinch and quickly avert their brains. This is an acquired response brought on by decades of conservative behavioral training – AKA working the refs.

Halperin’s sudden wakefulness is not universally held. Last month the ombudsman at the Washington Post, Andrew Alexander, published a demented apology to conservatives, going so far as to declare that…

“…traditional news outlets like The Post simply don’t pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.”

Alexander’s position that conservatives don’t get sufficient attention is in stark contrast to Halperin’s position that conservatives are given more weight. Alexander cited stories about ACORN and Van Jones to support his thesis. As it turns out, both of those stories were as phony as the one about Sherrod being a racist, but I have yet to see the Post’s correction or adjustment to their editorial policy. In fact, Alexander’s journalistic dyslexia is precisely what Halperin is warning against. Halperin continues…

“Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.”

What this boils down to is old-fashioned greed. Whether lured by the success of Fox News or the lust for controversy, these are both aspirations that translate into dollars. So the old media is simply aligning itself with the oldest profession.

The saddest part of this is that the White House has once again been seduced by these whores. This is pretty much what they should expect after allowing themselves to be bullied into casting off Van Jones. That sort of victory is like blood in the water to rightist thugs. Now they think they can get whatever they want by fabricating smears and disseminating falsehoods to a compliant press corps. That’s why they do it.

We’ve come along way from the days when former White House Communications Directer Anita Dunn told CNN’s Howard Kurtz that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Or the days when David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel went on the air and correctly pointed out that Fox News is “not a news organization.” How did we get from there to last week’s disgraceful submission by the administration to Breitbart’s deceitful campaign of lies?

It is well past time that people recognize that Fox News, Breitbart, and the rest of the rightist press, are not credible practitioners of journalism. We don’t have to respond to their invented scenarios. We must not assign them credibility. We can turn down their invitations to appear on their programs. They do not deserve to be treated as if they were legitimate journalists. And above all, never make an important decision because of some story they initiated. They are liars!

Is that clear enough? If Mark Halperin can see it, then surely the rest of the media can.

Why Fox News Is Racist

For the past few weeks Fox News has been ratcheting up the racial content of their tabloid fare. Megyn Kelly’s obsession with a trumped up story about the New Black Panther Party and their dozen or so members is a perfect example of the race-baiting that Fox passes off as journalism. They follow that up with the promotion of an Andrew Breitbart video that was blatantly edited to tar USDA employee Shirley Sherrod as a racist even though the opposite was evident when the video was viewed in its entirety.

Glenn Beck Deploring HonorBut these recent events are not aberrations. They are representative of an agenda that cannot be anything but deliberate. Recall Fox’s use of offensive rhetoric with reference to President Obama and his family like “terrorist fist jab” and “Obama’s baby mama.” Then there was the time that Bill O’Reilly tried to explain his reluctance to be critical of the First Lady by saying that he didn’t “want to go on a lynching party.” Or the time he attempted to praise patrons of Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem by noting that they didn’t shout for their “mother-fucking iced teas.” And who could forget Glenn Beck calling Obama a racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people? Beck is escalating his racial insensitivity by holding his self-glorifying rally in DC on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech next month.

Some people might wonder why Fox News would risk alienating a potentially significant portion of their audience. Well, we have the answer now. According to Brian Stelter of the New York Times, the African-American segment of viewers of Fox News in primetime this season is only 1.38%. That compares to 19.3% for MSNBC, and 20.7% for CNN, numbers that are much closer to the 14% of African-Americans in the population at large. These numbers also suggest that the black audience that might have been watching Fox have split evenly between MSNBC and CNN causing those networks to be over-weighted by about 6% each.

It is apparent that Fox News has little to lose by offending a segment of the television universe that doesn’t watch their programs anyway. Combine that with Fox’s political incentive to suppress Democratic votes and the strategy of inflaming racial animus doesn’t seem so bad in their warped perspective.

At the very least this explains why Fox persists in airing obviously offensive stories and why they think they can get away with it without adverse consequences. They have nothing to lose in financial terms, and much to gain by pandering to a prejudice demographic. It may be reprehensible to decent folks, but to Fox it’s just good business, and more importantly, good politics.

Andrew Breitbart Is Proud Of Being A Liar

The terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart is up to his old tricks in a new and bizarre tale of dishonesty and ethical collapse. It is startling that anyone even pays attention to this bombastic deceiver after all the examples of his low moral and professional character. This is, after all, the emotionally stunted jackass who posts videos of rivals picking their nose. Is this someone who should be taken seriously?

The latest trumped-up scandal from the Breitbart lie factory involves his posting a video that purportedly shows an African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture admitting to racially prejudiced behavior toward a white farmer. The problem with this (and every other) Breitbart video is that it has been deceptively edited to deliver a message that is patently false. Breitbart knows that the impression given in his cut does not represent the truth, yet he still says this about it:

“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. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions. [...] In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.”

Breitbart flatly states the Sherrod discriminated against someone she was supposed to be helping in her role as a USDA representative. However, the truth is that Sherrod was relating an experience she had over twenty years ago when she was not working for the government at all. And furthermore, it was an experience wherein she shared her revelation that race had nothing to do with carrying out her duties in public service. It was, in fact, an inspiring story of tolerance and equality.

Despite these facts, Breitbart’s lie was quickly disseminated to the right-wing press who cooperated by regurgitating the lie and further slandering Sherrod and the Obama administration for whom she worked. But the most troubling part of this story is that the administration, and even the NAACP, accepted the phony video as factual and acted on that basis. The NAACP condemned Sherrod’s behavior and the Department of Agriculture fired her. All of this before attempting to ascertain the facts.

What is going to to take to get people to realize that Breitbart operates a thoroughly dishonest enterprise and ought not to be regarded as credible? His attacks on Van Jones were lies. His attacks on ACORN were lies. He demonstrated his support for child molesters when he sent ambushers out to harass Cong. Alan Grayson over a bill that would protect children. If the administration, or anyone else, continues to act on the garbage that emanates from Breitbart they will continue to be embarrassed and to hurt good people, as they have done to Sherrod in this sorry episode.

As if this weren’t enough, after Breitbart’s video was revealed to be a fraud, did he apologize or express regret? Of course not. He criticized the NAACP and the Obama administration for believing him. Seriously! After conceding that his own video took Sherrod’s remarks out of context, Breitbart didn’t try to correct the record or apologize for the damage he caused. Instead, he pointed accusatory fingers at the people who were naive enough to assume that he could be honest. He actually took pride in the fact that his bogus reporting shook up the administration and resulted in an unfair termination. This followup on Breitbart’s web site is like a perverse episode of Punk’d.

“…it shows the extent that Breitbart, Fox, and the Tea Party have gotten under the skin of the White House. Rather then to think it through they overreacted and forced Sherrod to pull over on the side of the road and resign without telling her side of the story.”

In effect Breitbart is boasting that rather than recognize that he is a scumbag liar, they believed him. And now Breitbart is mocking them for thinking he was honest. It would be understandable for me to criticize the administration for believing Breitbart, but for him to offer that criticism is downright schizophrenic. Breitbart is taunting them with something like this:

“Ha ha. You thought I was telling the truth when I’m really just a sleazeball who lies for sport. Boy are you dumb.”

In the end, the administration deserves to be mocked. They should have learned long ago that Breitbart, and Beck, and Limbaugh, and Fox News in general, are not to be taken seriously. They should certainly never be the impetus for any official action without first obtaining independent verification.

The NAACP has already retracted their statement condemning Sherrod and apologized to her. The White House should see to it that she is reinstated. And everyone should take to heart the lesson that is obvious to those of us who have been paying attention: The disreputable fakers in the rightist media should be spurned, condemned, or at the very least, ignored. And for God’s sake, stop thinking that they will ever be honest.