MSNBC Cherry Picks, Edits FNC Clips to Claim FNC Incited Sherrod Resignation & Ignored Her Side of Story

July 21st, 2010 9:05 PM

On Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, as host Maddow complained that a video clip of former USDA official Shirley Sherrod had been edited to make it appear that she currently has a tendency to discriminate against white farmers at USDA – a clip that led to her firing by the Obama administration – the MSNBC host not only incorrectly claimed that FNC coverage of the clip had helped incite her firing, but she also suggested that FNC would never show her side of the story even though, by that time Tuesday night, several FNC shows had already informed viewers of some of the details in Sherrod’s favor. And, in fact, Sherrod had already been forced to resign before the O’Reilly Factor became the first FNC show to report the story of her comments on Monday night, although host Bill O’Reilly at the time did not realize she had already been fired.

Maddow’s show even chose to only present to her viewers clips from FNC that ran Monday and Tuesday morning which portrayed Sherrod’s comments as racist, without airing any of the clips from shows later Tuesday which showed FNC personalities conveying more of her side of the story. As Maddow filled in her viewers on some of the details in Sherrod’s favor, the MSNBC host used such phrases as "you would never know this if you got all your information from Fox News," and, after explaining that Sherrod, in fact, helped the white farmers in question, she added: "That`s what happened – unless, of course, you watch Fox News." FNC had already reported most of those same details hours earlier, and O’Reilly even informed his viewers Tuesday that Sherrod had declined an invitation to appear as a guest on his show, so liberal FNC analyst Alan Colmes appeared in her place.

As for using clips to make it appear FNC reports on Sherrod’s comments had aired before her firing, Maddow used one clip of FNC’s O’Reilly on Monday calling for Sherrod’s resignation at a time when he had not yet received word that she had already resigned, and the MSNBC show also showed an edited clip of FNC’s Dana Perino substitute hosting for On the Record with Greta Van Susteren in which Perino had reported the story Monday night, with MSNBC omitting the fact that the FNC host had informed viewers moments later in the same segment that Sherrod had already resigned.

Maddow used these first two clips, followed by a third of FNC’s Sean Hannity reporting that the resignation had happened – so that the MSNBC host could then drive home her claim that FNC had been "efficient" in getting rid of Sherrod. Maddow: "How`s that for efficient? How`s that for action? Fox News and conservative Web site uncover what they say is an admitted racist in the Obama administration and she is forced to resign immediately." Maddow had also set up the three FNC clips: "Within hours of that clip being posted online and billed as evidence of a racist within the Obama administration, Fox News, understanding their role in this delicate, well practiced dance, jumped all over it."

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, followed by clips from FNC shows from Tuesday that refute Maddow’s claims that FNC would not report Sherrod’s side of the story:

#From the Tuesday, July 20, Rachel Maddow Show:

RACHEL MADDOW: There`s a lot to get to this hour. But we begin tonight with something that frankly we knew was coming, something we knew was inevitable after right-wing activists and Fox News destroyed the community organizing group ACORN last year with supposedly incriminating videotapes that really weren`t all that incriminating at all, that really weren`t incriminating at all.

MADDOW, FROM A PREVIOUS SHOW, CLIP #1: This is not meant to excuse what ACORN has done wrong in the past, but the huge tide of negative publicity that followed these videotapes and the coverage they got on Fox wall-to-wall for months was bullpuckey. It was a dishonest, political stunt that bears no resemblance to journalism and no resemblance to the actual facts of what happened in those offices. But it worked.

MADDOW, FROM A PREVIOUS SHOW, CLIP #2: This organization has been shut down. Means be damned, in the end, it worked. Who do you think is next on their list?

MADDOW: Today, we got an answer to that question, which I hoped at the time was just a rhetorical one. The same attack that helped take down ACORN last fall with supposedly incriminating videotapes has now claimed a new victim.

Next on their list, it turns out, is this woman, an Obama administration employee named Shirley Sherrod. Up until yesterday, Shirley Sherrod was an official with the United States Department of Agriculture, with the USDA. She served as the USDA`s world development director for the great state of Georgia.

Ms. Sherrod resigned from that post yesterday, she claims under intense pressure from the Obama administration, pressure that was apparently brought to bear after this. The same conservative Web site that posted the supposedly incriminating but, in the end, just massively misleadingly edited ACORN tapes now has posted what it claims to be cold, hard evidence of racism, racism shown by an employee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The evidence was a video clip of Shirley Sherrod speaking at an NAACP event this March. And at that event she recounts this story:

SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA OFFICIAL: The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking, but he was trying to show me he was superior to me, I know what he was doing. ... What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was, I was trying to decide just how much help that I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn`t give him the full force of what I could do.

MADDOW: Damning evidence, right? A USDA official, a government official admitting on tape to racial discrimination, to withholding government assistance to white farmers, specifically because they`re white, stop the presses! Within hours of that clip being posted online and billed as evidence of a racist within the Obama administration, Fox News, understanding their role in this delicate, well practiced dance, jumped all over it.

DANA PERINO, FROM FNC’S ON THE RECORD, DATED JULY 19: Breaking news tonight about an Agriculture Department official caught on tape making racially charged comments to an NAACP audience.

BILL O`REILLY, FROM FNC’S THE O’REILLY FACTOR, DATED JULY 19: Well, that is simply unacceptable and Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately. The federal government cannot have skin color deciding any assistance.

SEAN HANNITY, FROM FNC’S HANNITY, DATED JULY 19: 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 conservative Web site 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 Web site 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. 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 that what she was talking about here was a situation that took place a long time before that. Check this out:

SHERROD: So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm.

MADDOW: Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. Chapter 12 bankruptcy for family farmers was enacted by the federal government in 1986.

Ms. Sherrod on this tape was recounting a story that happened in the mid-`80s, in 1986. 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. She wasn`t working for the federal government in 1986 when this story took place.

So that`s the first thing. The situation she’s discussing took place more than 20 years ago when Shirley Sherrod worked for a nonprofit organization, not for the federal government. 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 this 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.

ROGER SPOONER, FARMER: We were going to lose our farm and something had to be done and she jumped in there and she got everything lined up, and we went up there and she done her level best.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Had it not been for her assistance, would you have lost your farm do you believe?

ROGER SPOONER: I believe so.


ROGER SPOONER: I believe absolutely.

SANCHEZ: In all your time knowing Shirley Sherrod, has there ever been anything about her, either through her attitude, her words, her opinions, or her behaviors that would lead you to believe that she is in any way a racist?

ROGER SPOONER: No way in the world, no way. I don`t even want to talk about it. It don`t make sense.

MADDOW: So that`s the aggrieved party. Those are the people to whom the racism happened.

Shirley Sherrod helped those white farmers keep their farm in Georgia. After initially reacting negatively to them, she explained in the story, she helped them. She kept them out of bankruptcy. She recounted her initial negative reaction to explain why she`s so glad that she did the right thing, that she helped those farmers. That`s what happened – unless, of course, you watch Fox News.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, FNC’S FOX AND FRIENDS: -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, you know, a feather in her cap somehow for her to be congratulated. I mean, it`s really a shocking admission-

MADDOW: Yeah, yeah, right. Listen to her touting this as a feather in her cap and asking to be congratulated. Here’s part of Ms. Sherrod`s unedited speech. This is what she said right before recounting that story of the white farmers. Listen.

SHERROD CLIP #1: I made a commitment on the night of my father`s death, at the age of 17, that I would not leave the South, that I would stay in the South and devote my life to working for change.

SHERROD CLIP #2: When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only. But, you know, God will show you things and he`ll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people.

MADDOW: And that`s what she gets the congratulations for, because that`s the point of her story. That context, the whole point of her story about working for poor people, not just for black people, about working in a color blind way, that was left out of any of the clips posted of her speech and touted on Fox News.

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 Web site got their say about what actually happened here.

Dear White House, dear administration, believing conservative spin about what`s so wrong with you and then giving in to that spin is not an effective defense against that spin. Just buying it 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 till 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 aggrieved about racism in a way that helps Fox News` politics, here`s how Fox News decided to cover the end of this story.

JAMES ROSEN, FROM FNC’S SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER: Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this because they are on edge themselves 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. Like I said in April, who do you think is next on their list? I asked it months ago. And I`m asking it again now: Who`s next?


MADDOW, DURING COMMERCIAL BREAK: Joining us next on the show is the president and CEO of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous. The NAACP has been right, been put right in the center of this latest Fox News campaign against a previously anonymous Obama administration official. Ben Jealous joins us next.


MADDOW: It was at an NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner that Shirley Sherrod told her story at about working with white farmers to protect them from bankruptcy. In the heat of today`s totally contrived, right-wing maelstrom over this, the NAACP took the bait. They condemned Ms. Sherrod`s widely circulated but completely out-of-context comments about withholding assistance from white farmers. The organization called Ms. Sherrod`s comments shameful. This afternoon, Ms. Sherrod was sharply critical of the NAACP for throwing her so fast and so hard under the proverbial bus.

SHERROD, APPEARING ON CNN NEWSROOM: The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time, and they are the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that.

TONY HARRIS, CNN: Your reaction to-

SHERROD: I would have appreciated when you look at my history of civil rights. I would have appreciated having the NAACP at least contact me, and Roland Martin, too, contact me to try to get the truth about what happened.

MADDOW: After the story`s full context and the meaning of Ms. Sherrod`s comments came to light, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous issued another statement, a remarkable statement. It read in part, quote, "With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion that we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias. Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly, heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans."

#From the Tuesday, July 20, The O’Reilly Factor:

ALAN COLMES: The videotape that went viral was a 2 1/2-minute segment of a much larger tape. The farmer's wife to whom she referred said she should not have been fired. And, in fact, she did help that family and kept them out of foreclosure. We have not heard the full story.

BILL O'REILLY: I invited Shirley on tonight. In fact, if Shirley had come on, you wouldn't be here. That's how much I wanted Shirley Sherrod on the program.

#From the Tuesday, July 20, Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER: A career employee at the Agriculture Department is now a former employee tonight after revealing an incident of racial bias that happened two decades ago, more than two decades ago. An incident she says she was using to talk about racial reconciliation.


JAMES ROSEN: Sherrod claims the tale she was telling her NAACP audience about her dealings with a white farmer facing foreclosure back in 1986 when Sherrod worked for a non-profit did not extol reverse racism but instead showed how she managed to overcome her prejudices a quarter century ago.

SHIRLEY SHERROD: That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have. It's not so much about white. It is about white and black but it's not, you know, it opened my eyes.

During the Fox All Stars segment of Special Report, Baier showed a statement the NAACP released after the entire recording of her speech had been examined:

BAIER: They spent the day reviewing the tape, they said, the NAACP, and just a few minutes ago they came out with this statement:

"We have come to the conclusion we were snookered by FOX News and tea party activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias. Having reviewed the full tape and spoken to Ms. Sherrod and most importantly heard the testimony of white farmers mentioned in the story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans. The fact is the Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech."

And she did. The family has spoken out today about that. Fox News didn't even do this story. We have didn't do it on "Special Report." We posted it online.

Liberal FNC analyst Juan Williams soon weighed in: You know this happened 24 years ago. She mentions it as a story of reconciliation, as you describe it, Bret, in a March speech. That segment in which she talked about struggling with the white farmer, feeling the white farmer was talking down to her about possibly not giving the full force of her efforts, was a simple element in this larger story of how she comes back and helps the man greatly.

#From the Tuesday, July 20, Beck show:

GLENN BECK: Now, she's been forced to resign, and that's where the problem comes in because she says she hasn't been allowed to tell her side of the story, which allegedly is, that this event took place 24 years ago and, in fact, now, she is friends with that farmer and she was only telling that story to show that she learned her lesson, that it is not about race. She goes on to say it's not about black and white. It's about who has and who has not. Now, lending credibility to her side of the story, let me play her comments that we do have right after stating that she turned the white farmer over to one of his kind. Here it is.

SHIRLEY SHERROD: That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have. It's not so much about white, it is about white and black, but it's not, you know, it opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own.

BECK: Boy, I am, I'm puzzled by this. She seems like a nice lady. If it was indeed a speech to where, like this would be like taking a videotape of me at an A.A. meeting where I say, "And you know what? I have to tell you something. I was drunk every day. I was completely out of control. I'd pass out, having blackouts," and stop the tape there, before I said, "Until I found Jesus, until I found A.A., until I realized there was another way." And then Fox is firing me because they're rolling a tape of me saying that I was drunk and passed out.