GOP House leader criticizes decision to air partial video of Shirley Sherrod

Jon Ward Contributor
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House Minority Leader John Boehner on Wednesday criticized the decision by conservative media personality Andrew Breitbart to air only a small portion of the video showing USDA official Shirley Sherrod making racially charged remarks earlier this year, which led to her firing.

“It’s unfortunate that whoever laid this out there didn’t lay out the whole story, as opposed to a part of it,” said Boehner, an Ohio Republican, at a lunch with journalists in Washington.

“They only put a little piece of the story out there and people make judgments and they rush and they make bad decisions. They make rash decisions. I don’t want to say bad because I haven’t seen all of this,” he said.

Boehner did not mention Breitbart by name, and Breitbart did not immediately return a call to his cell phone. But the founder of BigGovernment.com has said in TV interviews with CNN and Fox News that he was sent only the two small portions of the video by someone in Georgia, where the remarks were made. He told CNN he did subsequently receive the full portion of the tape and would post it online “if I get the OK from the people who have the rights to the video.”

The White House, interestingly, focused its public comments on the response to the videos rather than on the purveyor.

“Members of this administration, members of the media, members of different political factions on both sides of this, have all made determinations and judgments without a full set of facts,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

“Without a doubt Ms. Sherrod is owed an apology. I will do so certainly on behalf of this administration,” said Gibbs, who added that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was going to call Sherrod to apologize this afternoon.

Vilsack is reviewing the decision to fire Sherrod. He is reconsidering the decision after input from the White House.

But Boehner is just the latest conservative figure to deem that the video posted by Breitbart on Monday was misleading. Fox News personality Glenn Beck and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer both concluded Tuesday that Sherrod’s comments had been taken out of context, with Beck saying on his show that she should not have been fired.

Eric Erickson of RedState.com, who is himself viewed by many as a conservative firebrand, gave a mixed assessment of Breitbart’s actions in posting the partial version of the tape.

“Andrew Breitbart promised he would do to the left what the left has been doing to the right for years. He is gathering quite the collection of leftwing scalps and will forever warm the hearts of the right for the ACORN takedown alone. I’m glad he is on our side,” Erickson wrote.

“That said, I think Shirley Sherrod has been unfairly characterized as a racist.”

“It is not fair. But that’s how the left plays and the right must fight on offense or not fight at all. It disgusts me to have to say it, but that is so very sadly where we are. As long as the left gets a pass on this all too easy game, the right has to fight back,” Erickson wrote.

Notably absent from the debate has been President Obama, the nation’s first black president who has weighed in on the issue of race at a few moments during his time as a candidate for president and as president. He was lauded during the campaign for a speech on the issue, but was widely viewed as having bungled his response to an incident in Massachusetts involving a black university professor and local police officers.

The full version of the Sherrod videotape did not become public until late in the day on Tuesday, when the NAACP’s national office posted it on their website. They said they did not obtain the full video until shortly before it was posted online, and that they placed it on their website as soon as they could upload it.

NAACP spokesman Chris Fleming said the national office worked with the Coffee County, Georgia branch of the NAACP to obtain the full tape. The Coffee County branch itself did not have the video, but had to obtain the tape from a local TV station, Fleming said.

The NAACP also continued to lash out at Breitbart and Fox News Wednesday, after rushing to judgment late Monday and condemning Sherrod’s statements as “shameful.” The NAACP has blamed Breitbart and Fox for airing the partial video, saying they were “snookered.”

NAACP spokesman Chris Fleming told The Daily Caller: “The thing is, this wasn’t just Andrew Breitbart. This was also Fox News.”

“All Americans need to question the legitimacy of Fox News. They’re the ones who peddled obviously sliced and diced video,” Fleming said.

Fox has said that they did not air the video Monday until Sherrod had been fired, though they did link to the video on their website.

But NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous also acknowledged that the NAACP had rushed to judgment prematurely on Monday in issuing its first statement.

“We have a very good batting average. It is near 1000. But sometimes we make a mistake, and we made one here,” he said on MSBNC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Tuesday night.

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