Washington Post privileges Breitbart’s lie
July 20, 2010 10:24 pm ET by Jamison Foser
This Washington Post write-up of the Shirley Sherrod firing waits 15 full paragraphs before even referring to the full video of her comments, which makes clear that the allegations of racism on her part are phony. Even then, the Post doesn’t clearly indicate the the video debunks the allegations. And it isn’t until the 17th paragraph that the Post admits “Ultimately, she did help the farmer.”
In the second paragraph, the Post tells readers: “In a speech, she described an episode in which, while working at a nonprofit organization 24 years ago, she did not help a white farmer as much as she could have. Instead, she said, she sent him to one of ‘his own kind.’”
Again: In the second paragraph, the Post tells readers that Sherrod said she didn’t help the farmer — and only 15 paragraphs later does the Post finally acknowledge that she did help the farmer.
Though the Post mentions Andrew Breitbart’s role in the fiasco, at no point does the paper tell readers that Breitbart falsely suggested Sherrod’s speech described actions she took in her current-until-yesterday job at the USDA.
Long before the Post gets around to describing the full video, it tells readers “But for some on the right, Sherrod’s comments also reinforced a larger, more sinister narrative: that the administration of the first African American to occupy the White House practices its own brand of racism.” And: “some of the president’s allies on the left have at times reflexively seen racism as the real force behind the vehemence of the opposition against Obama’s policies and decisions.” (No examples or evidence are given.)
This is privileging the lie.
This is why dishonest people like Andrew Breitbart have power and influence: People and institutions that should know better, like the Washington Post, validate his smears.
UPDATE: See how the Associated Press lede puts essential information right up front?
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is standing by its quick decision to oust a black Agriculture Department employee over racially tinged remarks at an NAACP banquet in Georgia, despite evidence that her remarks were misconstrued and growing calls for USDA to reconsider. [Emphasis added]
And the AP’s third paragraph includes this: “The white farming family that was the subject of the story stood by Sherrod and said she should keep her job.”
That’s much better than waiting 15 paragraphs like the Post did …
UPDATE 2: CNN’s John King portrays Breitbart as having performed something of a public service: “Breitbart helps spark debate on racism.” Yeah, Breitbart’s actions sure were helpful, weren’t they?
UPDATE 3: Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty, who has the lead byline on the Sherrod article, tweeted exactly one line from the article. Here’s Tumulty’s Tweet: “sherrod: ‘God helped me to see that it’s not just about black people. It’s about poor people. I’ve come a long way.'” That line appeared in the 16th paragraph of the Post article. The fact that it was the only line Tumulty tweeted suggests that she thinks it is important — so why was it buried deep in the article?
UPDATE 4: More indications of how slanted the Post article was: The article didn’t so much as hint until the 13th paragraph that anyone thinks Sherrod was wronged. The first clue that the video posted by Breitbart was not the complete video came in the 15th paragraph. Paragraphs 3-6 are devoted to describing conservatives’ complaints about liberals; there is no indication that those complaints are questionable. Paragraphs 7-9 are devoted to criticisms of the Right by “some of the president’s allies on the left” — but rather than simply describing those criticisms as the Post did with conservatives’ complaints, these paragraphs are devoted entirely to undermining them. Basically, the article is written from the Right’s perspective, with just a little bit of truth tacked on at the end. And yet the Washington Post’s ombudsman keeps insisting the paper is insufficiently attuned to the views of conservatives …
Tags: The Washington Post, Andrew Breitbart, Karen Tumulty