There was a time, say about a quarter-century ago (and more), when CNN was the new media. Today (or was it yesterday), when I was pushing myself on the Stairmaster (or Elliptical Trainer), I looked up to see the “news” network running a piece on Shirley Sherrod, portraying her, as it were, as a martyr against the sloppy reporting of right-wing bloggers.
Now, I didn’t see the whole segment — it may not even have been a segment, may just have been a promo — so I write only to make an observation not to arrive at a conclusion. But, from what I’ve observed on CNN since this story broke is an attempt to jump on Andrew Breitbart (as a representative of the new conservative media) and apologize for traditional media.
And yet, in their rush to demonize Breitbart, the folks at CNN as well as their cohorts in the MSM, lose sight of the incredible complexity of this story.
Indeed, a story of this complexity leads to a difference of views between my co-blogger and myself. From the very breaking of this story and throughout its “trajectory”, we have not seen eye to eye on this matter. I do think he was right to apologize, but cut him more slack than he did.
I would rather he hadn’t taken back his apology (but I do appreciate the traffic that post generated 🙂 ), just wish he had walked it back a bit or at least qualified it instead of withdrawing it all together). Still, on one key issue, he’s right. This is a complex story.
And Andrew Breitbart, while clearly not guilty of malfeasance, did blunder in his initial release of the video; he should have (as per the Anchoress) said he would like to see the rest of the video before rendering a final judgment on Ms. Sherrod.
Now, while I agree that Breitbart had blundered in not so qualifying the initial posting. I believe those in the media who are attacking him are using the occasion not to address the error per se, but to try to bring him down because his work has threatened their enterprise — and the power they once enjoyed to set the national agenda.
No one (at least not in any post or article) has provided any evidence that Breitbart had seen the rest of her speech when he first released the segment, that is, they can’t show, but can only surmise, that he heavily edited the original or deliberately withheld any evidence related to Ms. Sherrod’s work in the particular case she addressed (in that video). Unless they back up their allegations with evidence of his intent to deceive, they’re guilty of the same kinds of slander they accuse him of committing.
She may not be the racist she appeared to be in the initial segment, but she is far from a martyr and far from an exemplary public servant. Let’s hope CNN looks into some of her more troubling statements, attitudes and lawsuits.
And perhaps the network’s executives will see this as a teaching moment of how the once novel network has become little more than an echo chamber as its anchors and reporters parrot the notions and persist in the prejudices of their peers in broadcast news rooms.
UPDATE: Seems my cursory glances at the TV monitor prevented me from hearing Anderson Cooper’s mea culpa:
On Thursday’s Anderson Cooper 360, anchor Anderson Cooper faulted himself for not pressing Shirley Sherrod when she appeared on the show back on July 22 and claimed that conservative Andrew Breitbart was a “vicious” racist who “would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery.”
Cooper now says he should have challenged Sherrod to support such an inflammatory charge with facts: “I believe in admitting my mistakes….I didn’t challenge her that night and I should have.”