UPDATE: Full Shirley Sherrod speech posted on CSPAN here
Hear that giant sucking sound? It’s Howard Kurtz, perpetual media establishment shill, giving it the two-lipped inverted blow to FOX News this morning, probably in some (futile) hope of tempering the news network’s ongoing glee over Tucker Carlson’s drip-drip leaks of the now infamous naughty Journolist, a private listserv for mainstream Washington reporters, founded by Ezra Klein, who now writes for Kurtz’s employer, the Washington Post.
In his always insipid media column for the Post‘s Style section, Kurtz attempts this morning to “ferret out FOX’s role” in the forced resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod on Monday. Maybe he shouldn’t have bothered — his paper did its best to handhold the right wing machinery that produced this “scandal” in Wednesday’s paper, when it waited until the jump to even mention that Sherrod was the victim of shoddy journalism, a conveniently edited video and a scaredy-cat White House that jumped to premature conclusions (and this was more than 12 hours — a lifetime in the news cycle — after it was already clear she had been smeared. That should have been the lede).
But back to Kurtz. His navel gazing has always been mildly annoying but today his whitewashing is just plain shameful and negligent. He writes, “for all of the chatter… that (Sherrod) was done in by FOX News, the network didn’t touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening.” What he fails to tell you is FOXNews.com was already helping the video go viral, with an accompanying news story, and no comment from Sherrod or the USDA.
More importantly, Kurtz goes on to say there was an email directive to the FOX newsroom on Monday in which Vice President Michael Clemente said, “let’s take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let’s make sure we get this right.” Sounds like some fine CYA, considering that Sherrod explicitly states that on Monday, she was told by White House officials that her resignation was necessary because her story was “going to be on Glenn Beck tonight”. Apparently, the White House was convinced the network was going to go all Van Jones on them, with or without “confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on air.”
Meanwhile, apparently without access to inter-office memos, Bill O’Reilly went through with an on-air slam of Sherrod Monday night anyway, which Kurtz graciously allows in his piece (he rushes then to say O’Reilly apologized to Sherrod later on Wednesday night. What a guy).
But let’s look at the rest of Monday night/Tuesday morning FOX programming, which Kurtz completely ignores. Remember, this all takes place AFTER the Monday afternoon memo calling for caution and judiciousness:
Compiled by Media Matters with accompanying video:
(After O’Reilly), in the next hour, Sean Hannity led off with the Sherrod story, which he called “Just the latest in a series of racial incidents.” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich then said that she had displayed a “viciously racist attitude.”
Later that evening, subbing for Greta Van Susteren on On the Record, Dana Perino said Sherrod had been “caught on tape making racially charged comments to an NAACP audience,” and said the video “adds fuel to a growing controversy after the NAACP approved a resolution condemning the tea party movement for not denouncing racist members.”
The next day on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy said Sherrod had been caught “making a speech to the NAACP that sure sounded racist.” Then Alisyn Camerota accused her of “touting this in this anecdote as though this is, you know, a feather in her cap, somehow, for her to be congratulated.” Then Camerota and Doocy agreed that the comments were “Exhibit A” as far as “what racism looks like.”
And more, where Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing “gotcha” guru — celebrated by Rush Limbaugh on down — is lauded for first putting up the video and calling attention to Sherrod’s “racism”:
In a July 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Laura Ingraham praised Breitbart’s video and his coverage of the story, stating “Andrew Breitbart, by the way, did a great piece on this whole thing. Fantastic.” Ingraham went on to ask “where was the media on this” and claimed that it took “Breitbart to come forward with this story.”
On the July 20 edition of Fox Business’ America’s Nightly Scoreboard, host David Asman began the show declaring the “triumph of Andrew Breitbart over the establishment.” The on-screen text repeated this claim. Asman also referred to Breitbart as “our friend Andrew Breitbart” and stated that the video “shows how inept government bureaucrats can be.”
Of course, FOX was quickly backing off late Tuesday when it was clear that Sherrod had been smeared (turns out, they only needed to have gotten to the source, Ms. Sherrod, to find out that the video was part of one of Breitbart’s elaborate hustles in the first place). Kurtz fails to mention the network’s hilarious backpedaling and spin, which was first evident in Beck’s 5 p.m. ET show and then on Special Report w/ Brett Baier:
On the July 20 edition of Special Report, Bret Baier claimed “Fox News didn’t even do the story, we didn’t do it on Special Report, we posted it online.”
-On the July 20 edition of this Fox News show, Beck stated: “I don’t think Shirley should have been fired — or, I’m sorry, forced to resign. Based on the facts that we have right now, this is something that I wouldn’t air and demand a resignation on.” He added that he “wouldn’t air” the tape because “context matters.”
On the July 21 edition of Fox & Friends, Dana Perino and Steve Doocy falsely asserted that, in Perino’s words, “before the news even broke, she had resigned.” Perino then stated that “everyone’s nerves are raw and exposed on these racial questions, and I think we should all look before we leap.” Doocy then stated: “What was the big hurry for them to condemn her in the first place? I don’t get it, because the totality of what she said was out there.”
On the July 20 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, James Rosen reported that the additional context from Sherrod’s speech “appeared to corroborate” her statement that she was telling the story of “how she came to see beyond race,” and then asked: “Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this because they are on edge themselves because of the Van Jones controversy, the Black Panthers Party case, and other controversies?
I had been hesitant to write about Sherrod over the last few days. But my blood continued to boil. A decent woman (just listen to the farmers she had supposedly maligned) has been humiliated, forced to resign, made a pawn in a public tit-for-tat between the right wing and the NAACP. Anyone who has been following this knows how it happened. If Howard Kurtz — “media critic” — thinks he is doing his paper a favor by sucking up to FOX News, which had the nerve, after all this, to say Sherrod “certainly could be forgiven for being confused” about FOX’s contribution to the White House freak-out, he is in for a huge surprise. Weakness and appeasement is never rewarded. Just look at the White House. I look forward to more of the Journolist postings. Maybe we’ll seem some from Howie.