Andrew Breitbart should apologize to Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP immediately for the tape he released this week on biggovernment.com. The statement made by Sherrod as part of a larger speech was—as she and the civil rights organization say—taken out of context.
Brietbart went on record Tuesday night on Larry King Live and Hannity, stating that his objective in releasing the tape was not to do harm to Ms. Sherrod, but to bring attention to audience laughter and applause at her comments.
“This was not about Shirley Sherrod,” Breitbart said to Larry King. “This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party and this is showing racism at an NAACP event. I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired. I did not ask for any repercussions for Shirley Sherrod. … But what you see on the video are people in the audience at an organization whose sole job is to fight against discrimination and they’re applauding her overt racism that she is representing … ”
That would be all well and good if Mr. Brietbart could read hearts. No one can, and to assume that the audience was laughing at a white farmer’s misfortune, rather than reflecting on times when they may have also been guilty of slighting a person wrongly because of race—as Ms. Sherrod admitted—is impossible.
Shirley Sherrod is probably not innocent in the NAACP’s mischaracterization of the U.S. Tea Party movement but the video Brietbart displayed on Big Government doesn’t show it. Her comment, “So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him” is certainly good fodder for criticism. Had a white official made such a comment about a black person, his or her career would be toast. But the tape as aired by Brietbart was clearly re-manufactured by someone to create a story that wasn’t there.
Honest minded conservatives will always disagree with the NAACP, as long as that organization continues to ignore legitimate racial issues in defense of bigots like the New Black Panthers, and makes unfounded racial allegation against the Tea Party. However, to castigate either Ms. Sherrod or the audience, when the circumstances are less than clear, is just as wrong.
Shirley Sherrod will undoubtedly profit from the flap caused by Breitbart’s shoddy journalism, but that is irrelevant. Making her a martyr does more harm than good for the tea parties, and trying to cloak the mistake is unethical.
Apologize, Mr. Breitbart; this is beneath you.