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Finger-pointing at Fox in Shirley Sherrod firing

The USDA official's firing came after a conservative blogger posted her truncated comments to the NAACP that, 24 years ago, she didn't help a white farmer as much as she could have.

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Clemente, the Fox executive, said in an interview that Sherrod "certainly could be forgiven for being confused." As for other critics, he said that blaming Fox is "a comfortable reflex for some people."

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Even the NAACP, which had initially criticized Sherrod, beat an embarrassing retreat after viewing the full tape -- and complaining that it had been "snookered" by Fox and Breitbart. Clemente said he never heard from the group's president, Benjamin Jealous, despite a recent lunch in which he says they agreed to get in touch when disputes arise. Fox says the NAACP did not respond to messages left by Clemente on Tuesday.

Once Sherrod's resignation was confirmed, it was obviously a significant news story that media outlets were entitled to chase. But they did so on the basis of one misleading clip before the NAACP made the full video available Tuesday.

There were signs of enterprising hustle, however. On Tuesday, CNN snagged interviews with Sherrod, Breitbart and Eloise Spooner, wife of the Georgia farmer whom Sherrod had aided and was the subject of her anecdote. "She gave enough that it helped save our farm," Spooner said.

With Vilsack now offering Sherrod a job and the media looking like they abetted the insta-tragedy, even many on the right were siding with the previously vilified Sherrod. "Her full speech is heartfelt and moving," wrote National Review Editor Rich Lowry. "It's the tale of someone overcoming hatred and rancor when she had every reason not to. Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America -- chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves."

Story goes viral

The MSM are primarily interesting in blaming the administration (although Keith Olbermann included his own network in criticizing the media's handling of the mess).

"The Obama administration issued an extraordinary public apology Wednesday and offered to reinstate a federal official who was fired after she appeared to make racial comments on a misleading snippet of video," the L.A Times reports.

"The events came as an embarrassment to Obama administration officials, who have sought to depict themselves as immune to the blogosphere and demands of the news cycle."

The New York Times includes this section on the media:

"Mr. Vilsack's late-afternoon appearance capped a humiliating and fast-paced few days not only for the White House, but also for the N.A.A.C.P. and the national news media, especially the Fox News Channel and its hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, all of whom played a role in promoting the story about Ms. Sherrod.

"The controversy illustrates the influence of right-wing Web sites like the one run by Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who initially posted the misleading and highly edited video, which he later said had been sent to him already edited. (Similarly, Mr. Breitbart used edited videos to go after Acorn, the community organizing group.) Politically charged stories often take root online before being shared with a much wider audience on Fox. The television coverage, in turn, puts pressure on other news media outlets to follow up."

That may be true generally, but the problem with the chronology in this case is that by the time the O'Reilly and Hannity comments aired Monday night, Sherrod had already been cashiered.


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