James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Right-wing lies lead to Vil-sacking

Posted by James McPherson on July 21, 2010

With the amazingly speedy news cycle we now have, it’s already old news that a right-wing blogger lied about an Obama administration official, that the lie was spread by Fox News, and that the official was wrongly forced to resign because her bosses were too lazy or cowardly or paranoid to check out the truth and stand up to the liars.

Fox then gained the added benefit of being able to then suggest that Shirley Sherrod had been railroaded by the administration, despite the fact that with this runaway train it was Fox News was among those pouring on the coal. (Sherrod apparently may have been fired even before the story appeared on Fox, though with the apparent knowledge that it would appear there.)

Today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack accepted full responsibility for the mess, publicly apologized to Sherrod, and offered her another job.

“I didn’t take the time I should have,” said Vilsack, who was portrayed by himself and others as the villain in the case. And there’s no doubt that Vilsack blew it, though of course he had help. And others were equally quick to react badly, including the NAACP.

It’s no surprise that Fox would turn bad information from a questionable source into a biased story designed to make the administration look bad, of course–that’s what the network does. This is at least twice from the same Matt Drudge spinoff; the first was the much more widespread lying about ACORN. Sadly, also not surprising is that Bill O’Reilly thinks the false stories should get even more coverage from other media–perhaps so his employer won’t so often stand alone among major networks in its stupidity.

Nor should we be surprised that a multitude of kneejerk bloggers quickly relayed the bad info (sometimes adding their own obnoxious comments or misstatements); for examples, see here, here, here, herehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. At this writing, only the last two of those had offered a full correction or apology.

This case provides further evidence that you cannot fully trust video unless you shot it yourself. Another sad but probably true reminder comes from Bob Cesca at Huffington Post: “This will all happen again. Why? Because the traditional news media and, to a certain extent, the Democrats including the president, are too easily cowed by right-wing freakouts.”

Same-day update: Thanks to Poynter’s Jim Romenesko, I just came across this excellent summary of the case and some the media issues involved.

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9 Responses to “Right-wing lies lead to Vil-sacking”

  1. Talk about spreading lies (thanks for linking my page). Fox News commentators who are opinion guys mentioned the story (O’Reilly and Hannity). You also leave out a lot of what Ms. Sherrod said on CNN. She said she was harassed by the White House, 3 times, to resigned and added “they said I would be on Glenn Beck this afternoon.” FACT!

    That afternoon, Beck didn’t mention the story at all that day. FACT!

    O’Reilly did a bit on it and so did Hannity. Then the NAACP released their statement at 1a.m. condeming Ms. Sherrod. Beck talked about it during his “context” show and said Sherrod was being railroaded. FACT!

    On the full tape which I plan on posting to my blog, you will also hear Ms. Sherrod thanking “the president” for attending. That would be the President of the NAACP, Ben Jealous. The same idiot who claims to have been ‘shookered.’ He was there and he allowed Ms. Sherrod to make her race-tinged comments and didn’t reprimand those members who were in agreement.

    Ms. Sherrod also went on to speak ill of white buying ‘black farms’ and how the wealth created racism, among a number of class warfare references.

    I find it ironic that those on the left always claim Fox News isn’t real news but this incident proves the White House is watching. Glenn Beck has them running scared and Ms. Sherrod proves that 100%.

    By the way, the next news item about that angel, Ms. Sherrod is her links to Bill Ayers (Obama’s pal). I will post this news nugget tomorrow. Thanks for reading and try not to throw stones in glass houses. Leaving out facts is just the same as lying.

    .

  2. Rick said

    Scotty, I’m confused. Are you then NOT troubled by what Fox News did? Hmmm.

  3. James McPherson said

    “thanks for linking my page”

    You’re welcome.

    “Fox News commentators who are opinion guys mentioned the story (O’Reilly and Hannity). ”

    The Fox story linked above comes comes from neither, and was posted as a news story.

    “That would be the President of the NAACP, Ben Jealous”

    Are you sure? She was speaking to a local chapter, not the national organization. You may be right; I don’t know.

    “He was there and he allowed Ms. Sherrod to make her race-tinged comments…” and didn’t reprimand those members who were in agreement.”

    Even if he was there (again, you might want to double-check that), there’s no reason he would be “allowing” statements–should he read every speech in advance. Besides, in context how were these “race-tinged”?

    “…and didn’t reprimand those members who were in agreement.”

    How do you know what he said or didn’t say after the speech ended? Besides, your interpretation of “agreement” seems a bit off to me, especially since you seem to be still misinterpreting what she said.

    “this incident proves the White House is watching. Glenn Beck has them running scared and Ms. Sherrod proves that 100%.”

    No disagreement here. It’s pitifully sad and stupid, but probably true.

    “the next news item about that angel, Ms. Sherrod is her links to Bill Ayers (Obama’s pal). I will post this news nugget tomorrow.”

    I look forward to it. God knows the Bill Ayers angle has been no more overdone than ACORN or birther fantasies.

    “Leaving out facts is just the same as lying.”

    Sometimes, but only if the facts are relevant. And I don’t see how the Glenn Beck stuff that you apparently thought I’d overlooked was relevant to what I wrote.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. James McPherson said

    By the way, Scotty, which site is yours? For some reason the live link you gave with your comment goes to “godaddy.com.” If you clarify, I’ll be happy to add it so people can check out tomorrow’s Sherrod/Ayers “news nugget.” Thanks.

  5. James McPherson said

    Never mind; I found it: http://scottystarnes.wordpress.com/

  6. Honestly, I admit I jumped the gun and posted the video of the “taken out of context” remarks.

    The only two opinion show hosts to mention the news about Ms. Sherrod, the day she was fired, was Hannity and O’Reilly. Did Fox News run a story the following day? I’m sure they did, though I didn’t read it.

    Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, released a statement at 1am, condenming Ms. Sherrod and said her statements were racist as were her actions…”We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.”

    He also said “The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing.”

    The Bill Ayers link comes through her husband.

    As for ACORN, that was another story the media dropped because, as everyone knows, they cover Obama’s ass. As for the ‘birthers’ I am not one.

    The Beck issue. Ms. Sherrod was asked to resign before Fox News reported anything. CNN has a timeline. I will send you the link. The White House (using Ms. Sherrod’s words) told her that she was going to be a story on Glenn Beck. Beck didn’t report the story at all that day. Just stating a fact that many are leaving out.

    It’s nice to have a civil debate. Take care and I’ll be reading more of your blog in the future. We might not see things the same politically, but a nice civil debate is always welcome. Take care.

  7. James McPherson said

    “Jealous, President of the NAACP, released a statement at 1am, condenming Ms. Sherrod…”

    True–that’s why I said in the original post that “others were equally quick to react badly, including the NAACP.”

    “As for ACORN, that was another story the media dropped”

    Here I disagree, of course. If not for Breitbart and Fox distortions, ACORN probably would still be doing good work.

    “It’s nice to have a civil debate.”

    I agree with you again here, and among other things appreciate the fact that you use your name. If interested, you can see more about my perspective on that here: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/begging-to-differ/. Thanks again.

  8. W.N.N. said

    Thanks for the link. I won’t apologize, because I never went after Sherrod. If you read today’s post, you’ll see that. What everybody is missing, due to their own kneejerk reactions and hatred for Fox (which I don’t watch) is that Breitbart’s video was about about Sherrod; it was about the NAACP’s audible reactions to Sherrod. When she stated she wasn’t going to provide the same help to the farmer because he was white (which came before her describing her realization that it’s not about black vs. white), the NAACP crowd laughed. That was the sole purpose of the video (it was posted in response to the NAACP’s stupid vote to condemn racism in the tea parties).
    In any event, keep up the good work!

    whynotnashville.wordpress.com

  9. James McPherson said

    “it was about the NAACP’s audible reactions to Sherrod”

    The big difference, of course, is that the NAACP audience was reacting to the comments in their full and proper context, which Breitbart’s viewers couldn’t do.

    “keep up the good work”

    Same to you–and thanks for the comment.

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