Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Below is my reaction to a piece written for The Root, a blog dedicated to African-American issues. Naturally, the overwhelming majority of its content (as in everything I've ever read on it) is pro-Democrat and anti-Republican, and really anti-Tea Party.

The dismissal of Andrew Breitbart from the Huffington Post after a campaign by the leftist organization Color of Change (most famous for targeting Glenn Beck for boycott and cancellation after his remark accusing President Obama of not liking white people) has been a hot topic of late. Breitbart was vilified already for his role in the exposure of ACORN and especially for his BigGovernment.com's thorough investigative reporting about the Pigford Farms settlement, which I wrote about briefly in July 2010. Harsh remarks about former Obamastration "green job czar" and COC co-founder Van Jones got him bounced from HuffPo, despite the fact that other writers were more than welcome there after saying much worse things about conservatives.

In a column entitled "Race-Baiting Is Different From Racism" and subtitled
"When ColorOfChange.org campaigned against conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart's presence on Huffington Post, it was for what he's done, not what he feels, say leaders of the organization", COC co-founder James Rucker and campaign manager Dani McClain insist that Breitbart got off easy due to too much respect issued to him by other white journalist types. They were upset because HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington and founding editor Roy Sekoff admitted in an interview that they even though they ejected Breitbart from the site, they did NOT believe he is racist.

This is the original draft of my comments on the below-quoted part of the Rucker/McClain piece before I had to divide it into two parts to fit it into The Root's comments section (links added):

This same reluctance (cowardice? postracial delusion?) was evident in some of the coverage of our campaign. David Weigel at Slate conflated our members' efforts against Breitbart with Media Matters' work monitoring Fox News, characterizing both as " … a liberal campaign aimed at getting conservatives off the air, off the Huffington Post front page, off Fox News. It's as blatant as the conservative campaign to dismantle the liberal media."

Well, no. Unless there's a conservative campaign afoot to keep race-baiters who intentionally deceive from appearing as trustworthy, ethical pundits on the Sunday-morning shows and network news, then there's really no comparison. Perhaps Weigel realizes this but fears what an honest assessment of Breitbart's race problem might do to his own bona fides as an objective journalist.

You folks haven't been paying attention, because Weigel has no "bona fides as an objective journalist." He was exposed as a hardcore lefty when his participation in the now-defunct pro-Democrat, anti-Republican JournoList mailing list was leaked to Tucker Carlson's right-leaning Daily Caller website. His supposedly objective column in the Washington Post examining the right wing was belied by his angry, profane rants on JournoList about Glenn Beck, James O'Keefe, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin (partial list). When Rush Limbaugh was hospitalized in December 2009 with chest pains, we know now, Weigel snarked to fellow left-leaning JournoList reporters "I hope he fails." Following those revelations, Weigel was dismissed from the Post, but retained by its parent company, which operates Slate.

When it comes to Weigel's comparison that you find wanting, I say it's perfectly sound. It's true that what he described as "the conservative campaign to dismantle the liberal media" is not narrowly focused on -- to quote you -- "keep[ing] race-baiters who intentionally deceive from appearing as trustworthy, ethical pundits on the Sunday-morning shows and network news." But the default position on those programs is that it is fair to assume Republicans have "a race problem" (quoting you again) unless they make grand gestures of ideological departure from traditional Republican positions (e.g. Jack Kemp). No amount of equitable treatment of non-whites on a personal basis -- even marriage -- can do anything to alter that template unless it is expressed in *political* outreach leftward. Calling out the common presumptions as fraudulent is part of the larger fight against prejudicial treatment of the right-of-center in the mainstream media, and need not be specific to quashing race-baiting. The fact that you have felt it necessary to issue your statement above because Huffington & Sekoff admitted that they did not believe Andrew Breitbart is a racist proves my point. As media figures to the left of Fox News, they ran afoul of an unwritten law, and you fancy yourselves as the enforcers.

Finally, your assertion that somehow Breitbart had "destroy[ed] Sherrod's career" is laughable when one examines the facts of not only Sherrod's resignation under pressure from the Obama Administration, but the circumstances under which she even got the position.

Let's recap: According to Sherrod, she was pressured by an aide to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce her resignation in a phone conversation while she was driving on a Georgia freeway. Why right then? Because the USDA wanted to head off a discussion of the controversy on Glenn Beck's TV program that afternoon. (Remember that it was under the heat Beck brought upon your pal Van Jones that he resigned as Green Jobs Czar at midnight on the Sunday of a three-day holiday weekend.) Initially, the NAACP backed the decision to shove Sherrod out, based on the incomplete video of her discussion of how she pulled back assistance to a white farmer. Beck ended up actually sticking up for Sherrod, and criticized Breitbart for commenting on the video before he knew the context of the total speech. The NAACP did an about-face, claiming that it had been "hoodwinked" by Breitbart. Even Bill O'Reilly apologized for jumping to conclusions. The White House issued an apology to Sherrod. Vilsack offered an apology and her job back, but Sherrod refused the offer. Her "career" and her reputation were restored as quickly as they were tarnished, but she chose to walk away rather than return.

How did Sherrod get the job, anyway? The exact circumstances are unknown, but here's what we know: She was named Director for Rural Development for the state of Georgia on July 25, 2009. Mere *days* earlier, New Communities, Inc., a farm trust that Sherrod co-founded with her husband in 1969 (but had ceased operations in the mid-'80s), was given a cash award of $13,000,000.00 in the Pigford Farms settlement. Over $4,000,000.00 of that total amount was specifically termed as "lost wages," and Shirley and her husband Charles each personally received $150,000.00 each for "pain and suffering" (three times the average settlement issued to Pigford plaintiffs). The Sherrods were newly-minted multi-millionaires when she was appointed by Vilsack, who as Ag Secretary is the one who ultimately authorized their payment.

(I won't speculate in print about that last part, because I don't have a lick of evidence backing up what I'm thinking. But think about it.)

It's not only ridiculous to suggest Breitbart "destro[yed] Sherrod's career," it's outrageously disingenuous. The Sherrods were the most richly compensated awardees of the entire Pigford suit out of tens of thousands of filers stretching back to Clinton's second term. She didn't need the job when she got it, and she doesn't need it now. But the bitterness she has expressed after being booted from her USDA position could be predicted by anyone in the audience of that famous videotaped speech, in which she said "Have you heard of anybody in the federal government losing their job? That's all that I need to say, okay?"

Tell me what you think. Comment below, link if you like.

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