The Mirror

Why is the Washington Post letting Shirley Sherrod take over their gossip blog?

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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There is nothing wrong with interviewing former USDA regional director Shirley Sherrod. In fact, she’s a pretty good get. Embroiled in a media defamation lawsuit and collecting millions from the federal government in the Pigford settlement that she plans to use for a racially expanded plantation project, she’s ripe for an interview with a daily newspaper like The Washington Post.

So why the gossip section instead of the news section?

Earlier this week, Helena Andrews, the newest hire to “The Reliable Source,” the paper’s gossip column, wrote a piece about Sherrod declaring that she’ll never work for the government again.

Andrews rarely steers clear of reporting that involves race. But maybe she should have in this case – especially if she was going to give Sherrod such a free ride.

As a black reporter who previously worked for Politico, Andrews is the author of Bitch is the New Black, a book that involves being black and single. She interviewed Sherrod and wrote about the racially charged lawsuit she originally filed against Andrew Breitbart and WMAL and Breitbart NewsLarry O’Connor. Late last year, Sherrod quietly substituted Breitbart‘s widow, Susanna, for Andrew, since he died suddenly in March of 2012.

Andrews gives Sherrod the floor. “There are still people out there who think I’m a racist,” Sherrod told Andrews in a recent interview. “Breitbart made it impossible for me to work for the federal government again.” But the USDA did eventually offer Sherrod her job back — a point Andrews refuses to challenge Sherrod with.

Andrews continues, “It was the summer of 2010 when Andrew Breitbart, the late conservative blogger, published a doctored video of a little known Agriculture Department official supposedly making racist remarks about a white farmer.”

In a reaction post published Wednesday, PJ Media‘s J. Christian Adams took issue with Andrews’ claim that the video was “doctored.” But was it?

“Claiming the video is ‘doctored’ is patently false. But Breitbart isn’t around to sue Andrews and the Washington Post. The defamation lawsuits go one way, with Sherrod as a plaintiff trying to enrich herself at the expense of Andrew Breitbart’s widow and children.”

So Andrews fell short on her reporting. Why not give someone else — other than Sherrod, that is — an opportunity to offer another point of view? Why not appropriately press Sherrod on the statements she makes?

Oh, right. That would be journalism.

If Andrews had bothered to do her homework, she would have learned more from O’Connor’s attorneys over at BakerHostetler.

“Shame on her [Sherrod],” wrote BakerHostetler attorney Bruce Sanford in an email to The Mirror when asked to comment on the Sherrod case and the alleged “doctoring” of the video. “She knows better. Larry O’Connor and Andrew Breitbart did not doctor or falsely edit any part of her speech. They posted a verbatim excerpt of what she said.  She is a professional litigant who made millions of dollars in the controversial Pigford litigation. Now, unlike other public officials criticized for their conduct, she wrongly believes that she can do the same thing with libel litigation.”

A review of the court docket shows that John Doe, the still-anonymous source of the original video — also named in the lawsuit — filed a five-page declaration that Andrews didn’t bother to mention.

“The allegation that I inserted ‘inaccurate text’ into an ‘edited video segment’ of her speech and posted this ‘edited’ video on YouTube is false,” Doe said. “I inserted nothing into excerpts, nor do I possess the skill to perform such a task. I have never posted a video on YouTube or any other website in my life. I am just a citizen who heard parts of a public official’s speech and sent them to a journalist for commentary.”

Apparently, the editors over at The Washington Post are asleep this week as Andrews essentially hands her byline over to Sherrod for her to say whatever she wants. Since when do we suck up to our interview subjects instead of questioning them with a healthy degree of skepticism on things they say?  Andrews wouldn’t respond to The Mirror’s request for comment, since the right thing to do is ask her about it.

At the very least, why not present Sherrod with her own views from the original video? “Have you heard of anybody in the federal government losing their job?” Sherrod said, encouraging NAACP members in Coffee County, Ga. to obtain government jobs.

There are serious flaws with Andrews’ story. The main one being there is only one point of view here  — Sherrod’s, and no one else’s — except, of course, Andrews, who goes along with the whole charade of a story. It’s Sherrod, the perpetual victim, building her case in the gossip section of The Washington Post at the hands of a black reporter who clearly sides with her.

Come on, Washington Post. You’re better than this. Or, you should be.

(The same firm, BakerHostetler, representing O’Connor, represented me in a lawsuit.)