Rachel is the only commentator on cable or network news who takes the time to explain a particular newsworthy story that might appear complicated on its surface. Last night was an example of Rachel Maddow’s brilliant presentation and analysis of a news story:
MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show – 20 July 2010: Brilliant coverage and analysis of the Shirley Sherrod ‘smear job’ by Breitbart and Fox News Channel. “This is what Fox does… Fox News knows it has a role in this dance.”
“If you keep falling for this sort of stunt, you are encouraging them.”
After starting the show with video of Rachel predicting rhetorically in a report a while back on the ACORN smear scam that someone would be next, she fills in the events of the last two days…
MADDOW: “Within hours of that clip being posted online and billed as evidence of a racist within the Obama administation, Fox News, understanding their role in this delicate, well-practiced dance, jumped all over it…”
FOX NEWS’ DANA PERINO (VIDEO): “Breaking news tonight, about an Agriculture Department official caught on tape making racially charged comments to an NAACP audience…”
BILL O’REILLY (VIDEO): “Well, that is simply unacceptable, and Ms. Sherrod should resign immediately. The federal government cannot have skin color deciding any assistance.”
SEAN HANNITY (VIDEO): “And this is a Fox News Alert! An Obama administration official resigned just a short time ago after she was caught on tape appearing to tell an audience that she had used her position to racially discriminate against white farmers.”
MADDOW: “How’s that for efficient? How’s that for action?! Fox News and a conservative website uncover what they say is an admitted racist in the Obama administration and she is forced to resign immediately.
The problem? There are a few ginormous asterisks that were left out of the initial breathless Fox News coverage. The conservative website that posted the video, presented it as if it were a real-time admission of racism, an admission of racism happening now, actively, within the U.S. Agriculture Department. And that’s how it was covered, initially, by Fox News. Here’s how the video was set up. See this quote?: ‘Ms. Sherrod admits that in her federally appointed position, overseeing a billion dollars, she discriminates against people due to their race.”
Damning, if that were actually true. Shirley Sherrod joined the USDA in 2009. Now, it is clear even from these edited tapes was that what she was talking about here was a situation that took place a long time before that.
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… more than 20 years before she took this job with the federal government. That reality, that never made it into screaming Fox News headlines, though, like: ‘Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn’t Give “Full Force” Of Help To White Farmer’ and ‘Government Discrimination Caught On Tape,’ that’s not actually at all what the tapes reveal…
So that’s the first thing…
But even more importantly, and you would never know this if you got all your information from Fox News, Shirley Sherrod never actually followed through on this idea of withholding help to the white farmer. The whole point of her telling the story was that, in the end, she decided that her initial reaction was wrong. Having never been confronted with the opportunity or the possibility of helping a white farmer before, having always worked with black farmers, her initial reaction to the first opportunity to help a white farmer was wrong. This is the point of the story. The point of the story was that she should actually help the white farmers, and that’s exactly what she did, as the couple in question explained on CNN earlier today…”
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RICK SANCHEZ (VIDEO): “In all your time knowing Shirley Sherrod, has there ever been anything about her, either through her attitude, her word, her opinions, or her behaviors, that would leave you to believe that she is, in any way, a racist?”
COUPLE (VIDEO): “No way in the world. No way. I don’t even want to talk about it. It don’t make sense.”
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MADDOW: “…she did the right thing. She helped those farmers. That’s what happened. Unless, of course, you watch Fox News.”
FOX & FRIENDS (VIDEO): “Because a farmer was white, she doesn’t extend the full helping hand to him. And she’s touting this in this anecdote, as though this is somehow a feather in her cap…”
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MADDOW: “What is not really that interesting about this whole situation is the fact that Fox News is doing this. This is what Fox News does. This is how they are different from other news organizations. This is why the White House argued months ago that Fox should be treated as a media organization, but not as a normal news organization, because they don’t treat news the way a normal news organization treats news. Just like the fake ACORN controversy, Fox News knows that it has a role in this dance. That’s not new. That’s not actually even interesting about this scandal. Fox does what Fox does. That is ‘Dog Bites Man.’ That is not interesting.
What is interesting about this story is that the Obama administration inexplicably keeps falling for it. Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged that he asked for and accepted Shirley Sherrod’s resignation after this supposed controversy came to light on Fox News, but apparently before anyone BUT Fox News and a conservative website got their say about what actually happened here.
Dear White House, Dear Administration: Believing conservative spin about what is so wrong with you, and then giving in to that spin, is not an effective defense against that spin. Just buying and apologizing for it and doing whatever they want you to do, doesn’t make the problem of them lying about you go away. In fact, it makes it worse.
After Fox News set its sights on Obama administration official Van Jones, Van Jones was very quickly booted out of his job. After Fox News went on this fake crusade against ACORN, the Obama administration CUT ALL TIES with the group, didn’t even bother to mount a defense, or wait until they had been investigated properly, just let Fox News do it – they pushed an effort to defund ACORN.
And now, after Fox News totally misrepresented USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, she’s cut loose, as well, before the story can even make it into the mainstream media. If you keep falling for this sort of stunt, you are encouraging them. You are feeding a dog from the table, and thereby encouraging that dog to beg at the table.
After all the damage was already done today, after Fox News managed to force out Shirley Sherrod with a totally out-of-context smear job that made white people feel agrieved about racism in a way that helps Fox News’ politics, here’s how Fox News decided to cover the end of this story:”
FOX NEWS READER (VIDEO): “Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this because they are on edge about the Van Jones controversy, the Black Panthers Party case, and other controversies…”
MADDOW: “She was railroaded!
Given how the Obama administration has reacted to previous cooked-up campaigns by Fox News and conservative activists, it was not impossible to see this coming. So I say again tonight, as I said back in April, the huge tide of negative publicity that followed these videotapes and the coverage they got on Fox wall-to-wall was a dishonest political stunt that bears no resemblance to journalism and no resemblance to the actual facts of what happened. But it worked. Means be damned, in the end, it worked.
I asked it months ago, and I’m asking it again now. Who’s next?”