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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Original Sherrod Clip Was Not "False"

The left-wing blogs and media are hoping beyond hope that Shirley Sherrod sues Andrew Breitbart.

One common theme, echoed by Sam Stein at HuffPo, and various people he quotes, is that the original clip released by Breitbart was "false."

To portray the clip as "false" is wrong. The clip itself was what it was. No one is claiming that the words were changed or edited within the time span shown on the clip.

The original Sherrod clip was no worse, and in many way much more fair, than the clips and words taken out of context that we see every day at Democratic media machines.

I previously posted about how Gawker and Think Progress ran headlines that Bill O'Reilly had said that a black guest looked like a drug dealer? Those headlines and the articles were literally true, but wildly out of context meant to portray O'Reilly as racist. Breitbart's conduct did not rise anywhere near that.

The original Sherrod clip certainly gave enough of a flavor that Sherrod was talking about something in the past, and had changed (watch the clip beginning at 1:50, where Sherrod mentions that she no longer views race as the real issue). The full speech gives an even more complete version of that supposed transformation, but that does not make the shorter version "false."

Even Breitbart's original description of the tape -- before the full tape was available, actually disclosed Sherrod's transformation (emphasis mine):
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.
To the extent the original clip and Breitbart's description portrayed Sherrod as having engaged in a racist act in the past, such implication literally was true, as Sherrod admits. The actions people in the Obama administration took, and the conclusions the media drew from that literal truth may have been unfair and precipitous, but that does not make the clip defamatory.

I think Sherrod's chances of winning a suit are much, much weaker than portrayed by Stein and the people he quotes.

Any such suit would be political in nature, done for some ulterior motive.

Which, as I have pointed out, may not be the worst of outcomes for Breitbart, because a lot of people will be in the hot seat.

Related Posts:
Shirley Sherrod May Make Andrew Breitbart's Day
Context! For We, But Not For Thee
Shocked - Think Progress Misleading Anti-Tea Party Video

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  1. This part of Stein's analysis is also cracked: "For starters, the official determination must be made as to her public figure status. On this front, both Kovner and Solomon are torn. While Sherrod was a government official and part of a well-known family in her state and community, it could be that she was once obscure enough to not qualify for that distinction. Her case is much easier if she doesn't."

    The New York Times v. Sullivan standard applied to public OFFICIALS; only later was it extended to public "figures." Since she was a public official, it's clear that the Sullivan actual-malice standard would apply.

  2. Am I the only one who never thought the original clip was so damning to begin with?

    I'll be honest, I never got what all the initial hoopla was about in the first place. I didn't understand why Breitbart saw it as so scandalous, and I didn't get why the NAACP et al. so readily agreed. I mean, yeah yeah, she "sent the farmer to one of his own" -- but in this clip that's immediately followed by her second thoughts about her decision (her epiphany that it's not about race, but rather about the poor). And it's clear she was setting out to elaborate even more.

    That's not to say the "one of his own" business was OK in and of itself. It's just that even this 2:30-second clip seemed sufficiently explanatory -- if not even exculpatory -- on its own. I don't get why even the most ardent ostensible allies of Sherrod needed the fuller video to make their case. Their case was already sitting right here.

    I remember that first day thinking I must have missed some other damning evidence against Sherrod, some other video that had everyone up in arms and the NAACP rolling over. Because the tenor of the reaction just didn't make sense based on the clip I'd seen.

  3. Oh, and yes -- Sherrod doesn't have a snowball's chance of getting anywhere with a lawsuit. What a doofus is she.

  4. This is off topic but it's worth noting that on this day in 1912 one the the strongest propoents of liberty and freedom of the 20th century was born. His name was Milton Friedman.

    In this 30 minute clip from 1975, he takes on the evils of the welfare state, explains why social security is wrong, rent controlled public housing, how government intervention caused the Great Depression, and other topics. He notes toward the end that he thought the probability that we would avoid the slide into totalitarianism was less than 50%, but even if the probability were as low as 10%, the fight is worth it. His insights about how rare freedom is in human history are special. And yet we are two elections away from trading our freedom because a phony charlatan promises a better life in the form of hope and change.


    Milton Friedman is one of the truly greats who dedicated his life to trying to get the American people to wake up and defend their freedoms against the totalitarian collectivist state before it is too late. We never did.

    R.I.P. Professor Milton Friedman.

  5. If anyone has a reason to claim that she was deliberately taken out of context, it is Sarah Palin.

    Rewind to September 3, 2008: Mere minutes after her earthmoving acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, NBC News' Brian Williams held before the camera his printout of a blog entry from TIME mag's resident Dem hack Joe Klein, who was the MSM's first booster of Obama leapfrogging Hillary for the '08 nomination. Klein had earlier in the day written a screed against McCain and his campaign honcho Steve Schmidt for what he characterized as their "deci[sion], for tactical reasons, to slime the press." Here's what Williams then read before his audience, transcribed on NPR's "On The Media" show's website (audio also included):

    *****BRIAN WILLIAMS QUOTING JOE KLEIN: “I hope my colleagues,” meaning his colleagues
    in the news media, “stand strong in this case. It’s important for the public to know Palin
    raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued
    pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war
    in Iraq is, quote, “a task from God.”

    The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive but unprofessional in the extreme.”*****

    As I detail with evidence in this video I produced in August 2009, that final web-borne charge of saying the Iraq War was "a task from God" was based on a defamatory, selectively-edited YouTube video of Palin speaking at a commencement ceremony held in the church she used to attend. In reality, she was requesting prayers of protection for American soldiers in Iraq.

    Yet, eight days later on September 11, 2008, Charles Gibson of ABC News showed his nightly World News audience its very first glimpse of Palin's heavily-anticipated first
    national interview. In it, Gibson showed part of that defamatory YouTube video created to make it appear as if she said the war itself was "a task from God" and asked Palin (as the bottom of the screen read "Task from God"), "Are we fighting a holy war?"

    At that point, Palin said to Gibson, "You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote." Gibson shot back, "Exact words." Not pressing the point, Palin answered the question. But that brief exchange was NOT shown in the World News preview to the full interview, played on the next evening's edition of 20/20. Palin had caught Gibson fudging the facts, and ABC News pretended for 29 hours that she had not.

    Joe Klein took Palin out of context. Brian Williams took her out of context. Charles
    Gibson took her out of context right to her face, and when she called him on it, ABC
    covered it up until it cemented the narrative about her.

    What was that about "unprofessional in the extreme," Joe Klein?

  6. Why wouldn't she sue the Ag Department for wrongful discharge? It seems there is enough evidence and the WH apology certainly indicates they did something wrong and damaged her. Didn't she just win a previous settlement from them before being offered the job?

    Briebart didn't fire her, nor ask for her dismissal. Maybe I am wrong, but the focus of his story was the NAACP, the reaction of the crowd to her revelation was most interesting, not her revelation itself.

    Anyone who has ever spoken in public, or given and interview has probably been misquoted or had statements used out of context. Doesn't George Soros fund an organization that moniters everything Rush Limbaugh says, and havent his words been taken out of context more than once. How about the public assault on his character last year when he attempted to become a part owner of a football team?

    Who was it that said if you are going to get revenge, you better dig two graves?

  7. This all reminds me of the Bill Sparkman death (part-time Census worker found in graveyard with "FED" written on his chest). The big story was right-wing hate (Tea Party, Limbaugh induced hysteria, Michelle Bachman, etc) gone amok. By the time the truth became apparent (was proven to be a suicide, not a murder), it was a dead story, so the "right-wing induced violence" narrative stuck.

    The ssme thing is happening here. Yes, she "could" sue and Andrew Breitbart "should" be sh**ing bricks. The reality of a lawsuit is about as measurable as the number of "jobs saved". In the meantime, the narrative is all about how Breitbart is going to get sued, and whether or not it happens is irrelevant to that narrative.

    I suppose statute of limitations may have run it's course, but wouldn't it be a real hoot if some white farmer who did indeed lose his farm has proof that at the time he dealt with Sherrod (government loves it's paperwork - I'm sure someone somewhere has documents or forms with her signature on it.)

  8. "Which, as I have pointed out, may not be the worst of outcomes for Breitbart, because a lot of people will be in the hot seat."

    Yeah, like Sherrod's old man, Charles “We must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections” Sherrod.

  9. "Am I the only one who never thought the original clip was so damning to begin with? "

    She admitted to (however temporarily) discriminating against a white farmer because of his race when her agency is currently in the midst of shelling out more than a billion dollars in settlements after twenty years of divisive litigation to black farmers for exactly that kind of discrimination during exactly the same time period. That is a phenomenally stupid thing for a public official to do; regardless of mitigating factors, she risked reopening the issue with an entirely new (and much larger) victim class. I'd still fire her in an instant.

    "I didn't understand why Breitbart saw it as so scandalous"

    It's pretty obvious he didn't. The video was posted in reaction to rather flimsy or outright false accusations of racism from the NAACP and other outlets, as the original post with the Sherrod video makes quite clear. Breitbart's smart enough to know that no matter what the response he ultimately wins; if they fully investigated before acting on the racism charge he could have rightfully demanded the same consideration, while the actual outcome allowed him to give his critics a taste of their own medicine and highlight the damage of these accusations. If they ignore it, then he gets to slam them for racism and hypocrisy.

  10. She can't sue the USDA for wrongful discharge. She was a Political Appointee, she could be discharged by the President for any reason he wanted.

    She can sue Andrew, but she would be a fool to try. Discovery would be most uncomfortable.

  11. @RegisteringSucks...I always thought the original story was not so much about Sherrod but about how the crowd reacted to her story before they knew the ending. The story was in response to the NAACP talking about racists in the Tea Party and this video was a means to tell the NAACP to clean their own house first. Again cleaning the crowd, not necessairly Sherrod.

  12. The true story is that Andrew Breitbart showed a clip he claimed showed NAACP members applauding discrimination, which is outrageously false and the opposite of what really happened.

    As soon as the whole video was available this was obvious to all careful, honest viewers who troubled to find out what it was about.

    Breitbart's subsequent response--continuing to fail to grasp the social reality displayed--serves as an excellent example of the working of racial paranoia, and is similar in some respects to these cases where people are seen as racist for using words like "niggardly" or phrases like "800-pound gorilla."

    William A. Jacobson: "To the extent the original clip and Breitbart's description portrayed Sherrod as having engaged in a racist act in the past, such implication literally was true, as Sherrod admits."

    This too is outrageously false, and is another example of racial paranoia.

    Let's imagine you are Jewish and you survived the holocaust/Shoah, but your father didn't. You decide to get a job helping fellow holocaust survivors with a Jewish organization. There is no reason to expect that one day, in through your door comes somebody who is not a Jewish survivor of the holocaust, but is in fact a German of the age where the "what did you do during the war" seriously matters, and he starts talking long-windedly and from the way he is talking you can tell he's got ideas about the inferiority of Jews.

    And about the "didn't give him the full force of what I could do"--in any kind of customer service or bureaucratic job that involves helping people--hardly anybody anywhere ever gives "the full force of what [they can] do" in any given interaction. And it's utterly impossible to do that with every client. If your job has a normal workload and you try to do this, you will have to seriously skimp with other clients. The construal of Sherrod as having admitted to engaging in a racist act in this video is delusional.

    Breitbart has seriously beclowned himself, as have those who have ignorantly allowed themselves to be pulled into this ugly community of interpretation.

    Yes the frustration about the substantially spurious accusations about Tea Party racism is part of the necessary context, but it’s an open-and-shut case that Breitbart screwed up, and after the full video came out he REALLY screwed up by propagating the ridiculous bullshit about the nonexistent NAACP applause for alleged discrimination.

    If the video had been released on its own, that would have been one thing. But Breitbart included text at the beginning telling you what you were going to see. This text was radically false, and even though I believe this was an innocent mistake it was nevertheless defamatory.

    Will Saletan has usefully annotated the relevant portions of the video of the speech. Everybody who wants to comment on this story and cares about honesty should read this and then watch the video again.

    Though I think he’s probably wrong about Breitbart lying – I think Breitbart honestly can’t see what’s in front of his nose.

    I don’t know the legal implications here but from an ethical point of view Breitbart is seriously in the wrong, as are his supporters on this matter.