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Finger-pointing at Fox in Shirley Sherrod firing
The White House wanted Wednesday to be about the president signing the financial regulation bill. But the Sherrod fiasco dominated the Robert Gibbs briefing.
Politico's Ben Smith, looking at recent racial dustups, concludes that "the conversation just got dumber.
"The America of 2010 is dominated by racial images out of farce and parody, caricatures not seen since the glory days of Shaft. Fox News often stars a leather-clad New Black Panther, while MSNBC scours the tea party movement for racist elements, which one could probably find in any mass organization in America. Obama's own, sole foray into the issue of race involved calling a police officer 'stupid,' and regretting his own words. Conservative leaders and the NAACP, the venerable civil-rights group, recently engaged in a round of bitter name-calling that left both groups wounded and crying foul. Political correctness continues to reign in parts of the left, and now has a match in the belligerent grievance of conservatives demanding that hair-trigger allegations of racism be proven."
Atlantic's Marc Ambinder deconstructs the administration's handling of the mess:
"The executive branch realizes that the White House is extremely sensitive to the charge that Obama is using his presidency to advance the cause of black people. It's a tremendously silly charge, and maybe the White House shouldn't be so sensitive to it, but it's a real sensibility. One suspects that the moment that the specter of reverse racism was raised, the USDA's political appointees reacted almost unconsciously because they assumed the White House would blanch when the videotape was played. . . .
"The NAACP wasn't snookered. Vilsack was snookered. It doesn't matter why he was snookered, but he was. If he doesn't reinstate her, he'll look like a jerk who refused to admit he made a mistake. If he reinstates her, he might look like a wimp to some who object to Sherrod's economic inequality argument, or who refuse to acknowledge that Andrew Breitbart selectively edited a tape, but he'll also look like a guy who made a rash decision and had the judgment to reverse it.
"The White House is loath to touch anything resembling a racial thing, but this isn't a racial thing: it's a judgment thing. It's about thinking before speaking. It's about slowing down, it's about gathering evidence before making decisions, it's about doing the right thing."
From the right, David Frum unloads on the proprietor of BigGovernment.com:
"On the phone on the evening of July 20, a friend asked me: 'Can Breitbart possibly survive?' I could only laugh incredulously. I answered: 'Of course he'll survive, and undamaged. The incident won't matter at all.'
"There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart's role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart's role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself.
"When people talk of the 'closing of the conservative mind' this is what they mean: not that conservatives are more narrow-minded than other people -- everybody can be narrow minded -- but that conservatives have a unique capacity to ignore unwelcome fact.
"When Dan Rather succumbed to the forged Bush war record hoax in 2004, CBS forced him into retirement. Breitbart is the conservative Dan Rather, but there will be no discredit, no resignation for him."
Jonah Goldberg delivers more of a rap on the knuckles:
"I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart. I generally think Andrew is on the side of the angels and a great champion of the cause. He says he received the video in its edited form and I believe him. But the relevant question is, Would he have done the same thing over again if he had seen the full video from the outset? I'd like to think he wouldn't have. Because to knowingly turn this woman into a racist in order to fight fire with fire with the NAACP is unacceptable. When it seemed that Sherrod was a racist who abused her power, exposing her and the NAACP's hypocrisy was perfectly fair game. But now that we have the benefit of knowing the facts, the equation is completely different."
From the left, Washington Monthly's Steve Benen takes issue with Breitbart saying that "I feel sorry that they made this about her":
"Breitbart pushed a deliberately misleading video that went after Shirley Sherrod for no reason. He proceeded to label her a 'racist' who 'racially discriminates against a white farmer,' and demanded that the NAACP 'denounce the racism in the video.' That, of course, would be the racism that didn't exist when listening to the remarks in context.
"Breitbart's racially-motivated media stunt cost Sherrod her job, at least for now. But he regrets that 'they went after her'?"
Still, one fact is indisputable: It was Vilsack, not Breitbart, who kicked Sherrod out of her job.
Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."