Shirley Sherrod - Media Reactions and Reports
The first major news outlet to report on the Breitbert excerpts was Fox News. The Fox Nation posted an article on their web site at 1:40 pm on July 19, 2010. The Drudge Report headlined the story at 4:28 pm on the 19th. The New York City affiliate for CBS also posted a report on its website later that afternoon. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and On the Record all aired the story that night. CNN picked the story up late that night as well. The story became viral in the blogosphere and was posted on all of the major blogs and spread like wildfire from that point on.
It should be noted that Glenn Beck did not cover the story until July 20th. He first reported on it in the morning on his radio show and then devoted a segment of his television broadcast to it that evening in defense of Shirley Sherrod.
- She [Sherrod] is democratic nobility and black royalty. She’s an American hero. She’s a Christian soldier for justice. Why? Because in the face of...trauma, in the face of being stigmatized what does she do? Like...Fannie Lou Hamer, I will love my way through this darkness by promoting justice not revenge. — Princeton Professor Cornel West, Face the Nation, July 25, 2010
When the complete video was finally released by the NAACP, the mainstream media across the political spectrum was very quick to criticize the decision to force Sherrod to resign. Newsweek condescendingly characterized reactions to the controversy as "sad," "indignant," "accusatory," "sickened" and "scolding." The Huffington Post went so far as to compare Sherrod to Rosa Parks. Pat Buchanan who is a commentator for MSNBC, also compared Sherrod to Rosa Parks, commenting in what the news and opinion site Mediaite characterized as an "unintentionally insensitive" remark, that the White House and the NAACP "threw Rosa Parks under the bus."
CBS News' Jeff Greenfield roundly criticized the role of non-stop 24-hour talking heads and the news covering the controversy by saying: "The old United Press International wire service had a slogan: 'Get it first, but first get it right.' In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod story, it's worth asking whether more and more the second half of that slogan has been dumped into the trash bin." The BBC commented upon "the absurdity of the spin-cycle in which American journalists and politicians are intertwined and about the febrile atmosphere that surrounds any story about race." The New York Times ran a story that baldly stated that "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. ... 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."
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News called Sherrod on the carpet concerning her reference to the white lawyer she sent the white farmer to as "one of his own." O'Reilly correctly pointed out that she was a "long-time liberal activist" and went into detail on her winning a judgment in the Pigsford case that got her and her husband $300,000 when she sued the USDA. He stated that she should not be "doing the people's business [work in government]." Bret Baier also of Fox News responded to Sherrod's highly charged accusation that Fox News "would love to take us back where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and be a whole person." Baier said: "Miss Sherrod, that is just not true. It's not true." Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer said: "She was a victim, but that doesn't entitle her to victimize others and to use these kinds of attack."
- Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign Monday after conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip of Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP dinner on his website BigGovernment.com in which she appeared to say that she had once discriminated against a white farmer. The edited clip did not include the portion of the speech in which Sherrod said the episode had taught her the importance of overcoming personal prejudices....
- O’Reilly was the first on cable to air the video, calling for Sherrod’s resignation Monday night. (By the time his taped show aired, she in fact had already resigned, a fact Fox News noted on the screen.)
- On Wednesday, he said he should have gotten the full story first. ‘I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context,’ he said on ‘The O'Reilly Factor,’ adding that his own words had been taken out of context by critics in the past. ‘I well understand the need for honest reporting.’ — The Los Angeles Times website, July 21, 2010
Steve Krakauer of Mediaite reported that Fox News was the first to break the story and that other online sites, such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, ran the story later that day. Dana Loetsch, a Tea Party activist, mentioned the controversy on Larry King Live on the evening of the 19th. The story was also mentioned on Anderson Cooper, CNN, The O'Reilly Factor, Sean Hannity and On the Record. Primarily after the full video was released Tuesday evening, Fox News covered the story 39 times. MSNBC covered it 21 times and CNN mentioned it 63 times - this led Krakauer to believe that the idea that Fox News had lead to Sherrod's resignation was a "myth." Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post stated that Fox News, with the lone exception of Bill O'Reilly, never discussed the Sherrod story until after Sherrod's resignation was widely reported. He went further to report that the comments by O'Reilly were not actually broadcast until after O'Reilly's staff had received word from the USDA of the resignation. Kurtz also reported that Fox News' Vice President Michael Clemente sent out an email after a meeting Monday afternoon that said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right." Clemente stated that putting the story on the Fox News web site an hour before Sherrod's actual resignation was announced was a mistake.
Fox News and MSNBC fought back and forth concerning the Sherrod resignation. Rachel Maddow crossed the line when she decried that Fox News tried to "scare white people." O'Reilly retaliated by calling her and others at MSNBC "character assassins" who "slime" Fox. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean baldly stated that as far as Fox News covering the Sherrod controversy was concerned, "Fox News did something that was absolutely racist." Dean stated that even if the network only discussed the story after she resigned, it should not have aired the tapes at all. He said the network continued "to cater to this theme of minority racism and stressing comments like this, some of which are taken out of context, and does not help the country knit itself together." Chris Wallace of Fox News countered that this was an unfair categorization of Fox News and that it was untrue. On his show, Glenn Beck called Dean's comments "[c]ompletely unpegged from the truth."
The Reverend Jesse Jackson stated that the Sherrod controversy was comparable to legal campaigns to remedy past USDA discrimination:
- [J]ust this past Thursday the black farmers got a $1.2 billion settlement, the [American] Indians a $3.2 billion settlement, for race discrimination. We're not discussing all the facts... 100,000 black farmers get no press. Native Americans get no press. We're still arguing about how fast or slow the White House reacted. Also the Spooner's testimony – this white family farmer, Eloise and Mr. Spooner – I thought their stepping up to the plate in alliance with Sherrod was a great news story that none of us should miss.
While appearing on The View on ABC on July 29th, President Obama commented on the Sherrod controversy by claiming that it was a "bogus" one that was generated by the media and claimed his administration overreacted in forcing her to resign.
- Anderson Cooper
- Atlanta Journal Constitution
- Big Government
- Bill O'Reilly
- Bret Baier
- Chris Wallace
- David Letterman
- Drudge Report
- Face the Nation
- Fox Nation
- Fox News
- Glenn Beck
- Larry King
- National Review Online
- On the Record
- Patrick J. Buchanan
- Rachel Maddow
- Sean Hannity
- The Huffington Post
- The Los Angeles Times
- The New York Times
- The View
- United Press International
- Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn't Give 'Full Force' of Help to White Farmer Fox News, July 20, 2010
- Transcript CBS News/Face the Nation, July 25, 2010
- The Shirley Sherrod 'Scandal' Newsweek, July 21, 2010
- Is Shirley Sherrod the Rosa Parks of Our Time? The Huffington Post, July 22, 2010
- Pat Buchanan On Shirley Sherrod: White House ‘Threw Rosa Parks Under The Bus’ Mediaite, July 24, 2010
- Sherrod Story Shows Ugly Side of 24-Hour News CBS News, July 21, 2010
- US officials stumble on the firing of Shirley Sherrod BBC, July 22, 2010
- With Apology, Fired Official Is Offered a New Job The New York Times, July 22, 2010
- Bill O'Reilly Apologizes To Shirley Sherrod... Then Continues Criticizing Her New York Magazine, July 21, 2010
- Fallout From Sherrod Saga; Journolist Is Bad for Journalism | Special Report Fox News, July 21, 2010
- Bill O'Reilly apologizes to Shirley Sherrod for 'not doing my homework' Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2010
- Examining The Myth That Fox News Drove Shirley Sherrod To Resign Meidaite, July 22, 2010
- Finger-pointing at Fox in Shirley Sherrod firing The Washington Post, July 22, 2010
- Ms. Sherrod’s Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism National Review Online, July 22, 2010
- Bill O’Reilly: ‘Character Assassins’ At MSNBC, Who Abide By ‘If You Can’t Beat Them, Slime Them’ Mediaite, July 23, 2010
- Newt Gingrich, Howard Dean Talk Race, Economy and Elections Fox News, July 25, 2010
- Glenn Beck: Howard Dean 'Completely Unpegged From The Truth' (VIDEO) The Huffington Post, July 25, 2010
- Rev. Jesse Jackson on Fallout From Firing of Shirley Sherrod Fox News, July 25, 2010
- Sherrod's firing was 'phony controversy,' Obama tells 'The View' Star-Telegram, July 29, 2010