What was ABC News thinking when it decided to invite conservative blogger and media hit man Andrew Breitbart to appear on their election night coverage? And how can they expect anyone to take them seriously as a reputable news source when they give credibility to such a race-baiter and fabricator and as this?
A Matt Drudge protégé, Breitbart is most infamously known for the setup of Shirley Sherrod, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture official. Sherrod was forced to resign as Georgia Director of Rural Development at the USDA after Breitbart posted on his BigGovernment.com a heavily edited video of one of her speeches. In the March 2010 speech — which took place at an NAACP event in Georgia — Sherrod discussed her experience working for a non-profit farm aid group 24 years earlier. She encountered a client, a white farmer, who acted superior towards her, and made her question how much help to provide to him. In the end, Sherrod did help the farmer, realizing that blacks and whites were struggling in the same boat. For her, the issue was more “about the poor versus those who have” than about race.
But in the edited version of the video which went viral throughout the web and cable news on July 19, 2010, Breitbart removed a crucial part of her speech. He purposefully made it appear that Sherrod admitted she discriminated against the white farmer.
The Obama administration was rightly criticized for believing Breitbart’s deception and firing Sherrod — a black woman of integrity who became a civil rights activist after her father, a black farmer, was murdered by a white farmer in the Jim Crow South. The White House issued an apology to Sherrod and offered her a new position, but ultimately the real culprit here was Andrew Breitbart, an unscrupulous man of no integrity who threw an innocent African-American woman under the bus.
Sherrod later announced her intention to sue Breitbart. “Having him on that show is like rewarding a Klansman — giving a Klansman an award for burning a cross on Shirley Sherrod’s house,” said Sherrod’s attorney Rose Sanders on the ABC decision to make Breitbart an election night commentator. In an interview with Media Matters, Sanders said that the mainstream media should not give such an opportunity to Breitbart, suggesting they are doing so because he is right-wing.
“From a credibility standpoint, they are making him credible and validating him for what he did to Shirley Sherrod. They should have me on to balance it.” She added, “He never apologized for what he did and he tried to take Shirley down and the NAACP down. He is [going to be on ABC News] because of his horrible reputation. It is popular to be horrible.”After this unfair and unwarranted attack on Sherrod, Breitbart should have faded into obscurity, never to be heard from again. But apparently, in America, destroying the careers of innocent black people makes you stronger, more popular. And while so-called legitimate networks should have shunned the man after his latest stunt, one network treats him as if he has arrived, as if he is coming up.
Sadly, this is not the first time that Andrew Breitbart has pulled this type of stunt. For example, he promoted the doctored videos of fellow traveler James O’Keefe. O’Keefe claimed to have walked into the offices of the community group ACORN dressed as a pimp, accompanied by a prostitute, and received tax advice from ACORN staff. The deceptively altered tapes eventually led to the federal defunding of ACORN and its untimely demise.
ACORN was a target of the ultra-right machine because the organization was so successful in registering poor people and people of color to vote, making a difference in the 2008 presidential election. That led to a concerted effort by conservative zealots to paint the group as fraudulent and criminal. Breitbart claims he was duped by the O’Keefe hoax. Even if we are to believe his assertions—and it is hard to know if we can believe anything coming from Breitbart’s mouth—then at the least Breitbart is sloppy, and engaging in journalistic malpractice.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own political opinion. The media should allow for a free exchange of ideas, a debate on the issues. But no one is entitled to create the “truth” out of thin air. This is what the hard right does far too often. They learned from Karl Rove, the Bush administration and Fox News — this politicization of the truth. If reality does not fit your political goals, make up your own reality and sell it. This is what led to the Republican Party’s campaign to pursue imaginary allegations of voter fraud in black and Latino communities.
Andrew Breitbart is a propagandist and an outright liar with no credibility. He has a track record of conjuring up evidence to gain attention, and further his career and his twisted political interests. Most of all, he is a bully who has built a career in conservative circles beating up on black folks. Angry white guys such as Breitbart are mad that Obama won, and they want payback, even if it means lying and cheating to achieve that end. And not only does Breitbart get a second chance after his wrongdoing, he is honored for it. In a world of reality TV and instant celebrity, this will only encourage other unsavory characters waiting in the wings to attempt the same dirty tricks.
ABC allowing Andrew Breitbart to provide commentary on the elections is like asking Don Corleone about the olive oil business. You don’t trust gangsters.