Former USDA official Shirley Sherrod, a dedicated public servant innocent of the prejudice and misconduct falsely imputed to her, deserves justice. As soon as the White House and Tom Vilsack restore her job, with an appropriate apology, they will begin to remove a stain of cowardice from their administration. But while that may be all the government can do, it isn’t sufficient to close this case.
Real justice, as I suspect Sherrod would agree, also requires due process for Andrew Breitbart, the Internet impresario who framed her on his Big Government website. In these circumstances, that means a fair, thorough and tough examination of the media fraud that launched his operation last year: the ACORN tapes, whose misuse by Breitbart closely parallels his behavior in the Sherrod affair.
Recalling Breitbart from his days as eager lackey to Matt Drudge, I warned from the beginning that nothing he produced would resemble journalism. More than once since then, I’ve mentioned the accumulating evidence of deception by O’Keefe and Breitbart in creating and then publicizing the ACORN tale. It was a "scandal" that became a national story only after wildly biased coverage on Fox News Channel, followed by sloppy, scared reporting in mainstream outlets, notably the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and the national TV networks (some of whom flagellated themselves for failing to publicize this canard sooner!).
Investigations by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, among others, have served to exonerate ACORN of the most outrageous charges of criminality (while still criticizing ACORN employees and leadership). More important, from the perspective of journalistic ethics, those investigations revealed that the videotapes released and promoted by Breitbart’s website were selectively and deceptively edited to serve as propaganda, not news..................................