In one of the least surprising media developments of the year, Andrew Breitbart, the conservative provocateur whose media company is based in Santa Monica, has reacted to an embarrassing journalistic error not by apologizing — but by going on the attack.
Tuesday we wondered how Breitbart, who grew up in Brentwood, would weather this journalistic storm after he released a video earlier this week that purported to show an African-American employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying she favored black farmers over white farmers. But the woman, Shirley Sherrod, was actually telling a story about overcoming prejudice — an exculpatory part of the video had been edited out. Breitbart claims he received the video as-is and didn't edit it, though obviously he made no attempt to determine the context by reaching out to Sherrod or the USDA. In any case, he's making no apologies for this egregious error, and as we predicted, the press is, for the most part, giving him a freebie.
Over at National Review's The Corner, Kevin Williamson is a full-on apologist. “May the mainstream media aspire to live up to Breitbart's standards,” he says. He notes past MSM screw-ups like the forged documents Dan Rather used in his expose on President Bush's service record. (Fair enough, though how about a better and more consequential example — Judy Miller's bad WMD reporting that sealed the case for war?)
Credit to Jonah Goldberg, also at National Review, who says Sherrod is owed an apology: “I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart.”
Don't hold your breath.
Breitbart gives a fascinating interview to Politico's Ken Vogel, filled with characteristic self-aggrandizement, self-pity, self, self, self. In classic Breitbart fashion, he's running to catch a plane for a “long-planned” three-day vacation (during which, to be sure, he'll be obsessively checking the Internet and launching bombs.)
He offers no apology to Sherrod. Indeed, the correction on his original post only clarifies the timeline — she didn't even work for the USDA when the incident in question took place — but doesn't correct the main accusation, that she's a racist.
He then goes one more and attacks Sherrod: “He offered no apology to Sherrod but said that she has not been held accountable for the racial overtones of what she said. “If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod's entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white,” he said
Nor would he say whether, if he could do it all over again, he would have vetted the video more thoroughly. (Why would he? Think of all the people talking about Andrew Breitbart because of this incident.)
This is the second incident in which he used video that was selectively edited and wound up misleading viewers, the first being the infamous ACORN video. (They weren't wearing the pimp and prostitute outfit in the ACORN office, even though that became the spark that set the story on fire.)
So, strike two. And how does the mainstream media react? Well, check out this puff piece from “Nightline” and you get the drift.