This morning, President Barack Obama apologized to former USDA official Shirley Sherrod for her forced resignation based on a highly misleading video produced by right-wing media tycoon Andrew Breitbart. Obama “expressed his regret” in a phone call with Sherrod, which she described as “a very good conversation.” Sherrod also said she is considering suing Breitbart — who has refused to apologize or retract the story — for defamation, noting, “He was willing to destroy me…in order to try to destroy the NAACP.”
But Sherrod isn’t the only one denouncing Breitbart’s deceitful tactics. Speaking to the Daily Caller, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) called it “unfortunate” that Breitbart “didn’t lay out the whole story, as opposed to a part of it.” “They only put a little piece of the story out there and people make judgments and they rush and they make bad decisions. They make rash decisions,” Boehner said.
Meanwhile, Fox New anchor Shep Smith — whose network breathlessly promoted the smear campaign — slammed Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com as “widely discredited,” and blasted the White House for acting on its video. Smith even called out his own employer, saying, “The video, taken completely out of context, it ran all over the Internet, and television, including on this network:”
We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn’t know who shot it, we didn’t know when it was shot, we didn’t know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source. [...]
[The White House based its decision on] an edited videotape on a widely discredited website that has had inaccurate postings of videos in the past–edited to the point where the world was deceived. … What in the world has happened to our industry and the White House?
As Media Matters documented, a number of high-profile journalists have joined Smith in condemning Breitbart. CNN’s Anderson Cooper said Breitbart’s video was “clearly edited to deceive and slander Miss Sherrod.” Cooper added that Breitbart’s efforts to “weasel his way out of taking responsibility for what he did to Miss Sherrod is a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse.” Politico’s Ben Smith noted that “Breitbart’s sites now have a growing credibility problem.”
Even conservative journalists, like the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, denounced Breitbart. “Breitbart’s posting of the partial clip, which leaves out crucial information, was unfair to Sherrod,” McCormack wrote. “Sherrod deserves an apology from Breitbart for posting the edited video.” The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg agreed, writing Sherrod is “owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart.”
However, Breitbart has at least one defender in hate radio host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh attacked Shep Smith for “cav[ing]” in acknowledging that “Breitbart is wrong.” The NAACP should not be spelled “R-A-C-I-S-M,” Limbaugh added.