Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Breitbart’

Fox News, lies and videotape

July 24, 2010

Andrew Breitbart

Most journalists remember Janet Cooke, the Washington Post reporter, who in 1980 wrote a fake story about an 8-year-old heroin addict.  We also remember Stephen Glass, who wrote fake articles for The New Republic in the mid-1990s and Jason Blair, who did the same in the New York Times.

They all have one thing in common – that they all were fired, and will never work again for a reputable publication.  In Jason Blair’s case, the editors who hired him went down with him.

It’s another story Andrew Breitbart of Fox News.  The only price he will pay for his transparent lies about Shirley Sherrod is a non-apology apology, and a resolution to stick to more plausible falsehoods in the future.

For those who don’t know, Shirley Sherrod is a 62-year-old black woman who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  She grew up in rural Georgia; when she was 17, her father was murdered by a white man who was never tried for the crime.  She gave a speech to the NAACP about how she had overcome her bad feelings about white people, and come to the realization that poor whites and blacks are the same and equally deserve help.

Brietbart aired a videotape of the speech doctored to make it appear that she thought only blacks, not whites, deserved help.  The Obama administration immediately fired her, only to apologize the next day when the full videotape was aired and the truth was known.

Brietbart’s mistake was to air a lie that could be so easily checked.  In the case of James O’Keefe’s faked tapes of the community organization ACORN, which make it appear ACORN employees gave aid and comfort to a pimp, it took a number of weeks to uncover the truth.  By that time the damage was done, and the truth never was able to catch up with the lie.  ACORN lost its funding and most people believe the original false story.

The same pattern holds for the so-called “climategate” scandal, the Obama administration’s alleged dropping of a Black Panther voter intimidation case and many others.  By the time the charge is proved to be without any basis, the public and the press have lost interest.

Rupert Murdoch

The real responsibility for all this does not lie with Brietbart, nor with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.  The responsibility lies with Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corp., the parent corporation.  He could have devoted Fox News and his other radio-TV and newspaper outlets to reputable journalism.  He has made a deliberate choice to renounced journalistic standards and appeal to prejudice to further his right-wing agenda.

This does enormous harm.  How many lives might have been saved in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example, if National Guard troops hadn’t held back on going in because of lying reports looters were shooting at rescuers and the city had become like Somalia?

I don’t wish harm to anyone, but Rupert Murdoch is an old man, and I hope his heirs think about their family’s reputation in history.