Wow, Did The White House Just Fall For Andrew Breitbart’s Game?

Anyone else starting to get the sense the White House has been set up by Andrew Breitbart and fallen for it hook line and sinker? Any doubts to the contrary were quickly eliminated 30 seconds into Glenn Beck’s show tonight.

Yesterday Breitbart released a video that showed a portion of (now former) USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s speech at a March 27 speech at an NAACP banquet, which Breitbart described as “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient and in another clip from the same event a perfect rationalization for why the Tea Party needs to exist.”

The NAACP and the administration apparently agreed: Sherrod’s words were denounced by the former shortly after the video became public and the USDA accepted her resignation last night.

This morning Sherrod began making the rounds telling the media that the video had taken her words out of context, and in fact she was trying to tell a larger story of redemption. Sherrod has mustered some unlikely allies to this defense: Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment just posted a long piece calling on the NAACP and the White House to release the full video of the event “if the speech was indeed as she said, why wouldn’t they respond by releasing the entire speech?” Why indeed? Presumably Breitbart is in possession of the entire tape, how else could he release a mere clip and and state so assuredly that Sherrod was making a racist remark if he didn’t know the full context. Nevertheless the new storyline on the right is that Sherrod was some sort of sacrificial lamb. Money quote from the new BigGov post:

If this story is true, and there is no reason to doubt her, it shows the extent that Breitbart, Fox, and the Tea Party have gotten under the skin of the White House. Rather then to think it through they overreacted and forced Sherrod to pull over on the side of the road and resign without telling her side of the story.

Emphasis mine, since one suspects that may have been the larger goal here: to frame the White House as running scared from Breitbart, Fox, and the Tea Partiers (and truth be told, it sort of appears that way). This new meme conveniently popped up again tonight on Glenn Beck, who opened his show with a long diatribe on why “context matters.” [Watch below.] He went on: “Is it possible this is a political assassination from the White House?” No mention of course whether Breitbart, if in fact he did not have the full video has Beck states, should have waited before posting his accusatory post.

It’s entirely possible that Breitbart has been caught in a bad mistake and is attempting to backpedal with this new meme. Regardless, what is likely going to happen here is that the administration is going to come out looking like the bad guy. The new cable meme will very very shortly be this: The White House jumped the gun and fired a woman based on an Andrew Breitbart video clip without waiting to find out the context or to discover whether it had been edited. Considering how the ACORN story eventually unfolded it’s hard not to see this as a case of “fool me twice,” and it’s hard not to see, even if Andrew Breitbart is completely in the wrong here, how he does not come out the winner.

Update: The full video of Shirley Sherrod’s speech has been posted and I highly recommend you watch, it’s extraordinary. Sadly, what is now all the more stunning in light of the full context of her words is the administration’s response. As for Andrew Breitbart, it’s hard to know whose behavior is more disturbing here, his, or everyone else’s who blindly jumped on the bandwagon.

Do William Arkin’s Political Beliefs Diminish WaPo’s “Top Secret” Report?

The Washington Post’s enormously comprehensive “Top Secret America” project – found at TopSecretAmerica.com – has rolled out since yesterday, and the reaction has been wide-ranging.

But now the background of one of the two bylined co-authors, William Arkin, has come into question.

Dana Priest, the other co-author, has a long background in investigative journalism, but Arkin wrote a blog for the Washington Post which looked into the intelligence community. He’s been described as an “activist” and not a “journalist” and in 2002 made comments that made it sound like he was blaming America for 9/11. More recently in 2007, he was the star of an O’Reilly Factor ambush after he described American soldiers as “mercenaries” and spoke out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (watch it here).

But – here’s the big question: does it really matter? Arkin has never hidden his opinions, but at the same time, he knows the material extremely well. Plus, he is just one of the more than dozen contributors to this massive two-year project – one that even its critics believe is more hype than scandal.

This was the topic of a panel discussion I was part of during Megyn Kelly’s America Live today. I believe the Washington Post reporting is fair and Arkin’s well-known political beliefs don’t change that. Also, the Post has been clear that government agencies saw the reports before they were published, and parts they objected to were removed, eliminating any security threats as well.

What do you think?

Here’s the panel today:

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White House Tells Mediaite That It Had No Involvement With Shirley Sherrod Resignation

Former USDA official Shirley Sherrod has gone from racial villain to inspiration overnight, but the emerging context to the remarks that got her fired yesterday seem to make little or no difference to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Despite the fact that Sherrod explained to her superiors that the full speech exonerated her of what was suggested in the edited clip, Vilsack stands by the firing. Additionally, a White House official tells Mediaite that this decision was Vilsack’s alone.

Here’s Vilsack’s statement:

Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod’s resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia.

Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.

Contrary to what some are reporting, the White House was not involved in Sherrod’s dismissal. A White house official told Mediaite “We did not pressure her to resign. It was the Secretary’s decision.”

 

Defending Shirley Sherrod: Farmer’s Wife Calls CNN To Stand Up For Fired USDA Official

The wife of Roger Spooner, the “white farmer” described in the Youtube clip that spurred former USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s firing, called in to CNN this afternoon to defend her “close friend.” The best news from the interview is that Roger is alive and well, despite reports to the contrary. The interview supports Sherrod’s claim that her firing was unwarranted, and also promises to reconnect her with the Spooners, who credit her with saving their farm.

Here’s the remarkable clip from CNN:


It seems that the USDA and the NAACP may have jumped the gun in judging Sherrod. The NAACP says it is investigating “facts that were not what we were given last night.” A spokesperson tells Mediaite “We’re doing a full investigation, instead of facts that are trickling in, we’re going to speak with Ms. Sherrod, look at the full tape, speak with the farmer(’s wife), and once we’re done with that investigation, we will release a statement.”

Meanwhile, the USDA has just issued this response to questions about firing Sherrod despite her explanation, from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod’s resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia.

Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.

Here Is Lindsay Lohan’s Mug Shot

First pubbed at TMZ.com, naturally. There really isn’t much else to add here beyond speculating how long it will take for TMZ to get its hands on a photo of Lohan from inside the jailhouse.

According to Gossip Cop the “starlet was described as “extremely cooperative” while being booked earlier today, her lawyer, Shawn Chapman Holley, says Lohan’s “scared as anyone would be.””

BP Photoshops Picture Of Crisis Response Room To Look Busy


Just when you thought BP couldn’t sink any lower, think again. Yesterday, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog reported that a photo of BP’s crisis response room in Houston was doctored to look both busier and more recent. Not only that, the Photoshopping job is, to be perfectly honest, downright awful.

The image in question (left) features several employees in front of a bank of computer screens displaying live feeds from underwater cameras. In the original image, however, three of the screens are blank because, according to a BP spokesmen who spoke with the Washington Post, “BP usually has a couple remotely operated vehicles on the surface at any given time for maintenance.” Rather than leave the three screens blank, BP decided to work a little Photoshop magic and copy paste images onto the blank screens.

But as Aravosis points out, BP did a really bad job of it. If you enlarge the picture, it’s obvious that the pasted images are misaligned with the borders of the monitors and there is plenty of “jagged white space” around the employees where BP’s photographer did a not-so-professional job of blending the two images together:


Even more awkward than the bungled Photoshop job, however, is the fact that the photo might not even be recent. Aravosis, tipped off by one of his readers, notes that the picture’s meta data indicates it was actually taken in March 2001 rather than in July of this year:

An astute reader noticed that the meta info for the photo says it was created in 2001, not July 16, 2010 as claimed on BP’s site. It looks like BP took a photo from 2001, and in order to make it look like the command center in July of 2010, they pasted pictures of the oil well leaking over the old photo.

Funny as the whole incident is, it doesn’t give you much hope about the future competency of the oil industry when BP can’t even manage to convincingly Photoshop a picture of its command center…