For two days in a row on her noontime news hour, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer worried aloud about the White House bowing to the wishes of the conservative media on the Shirley Sherrod case, describing it as "towing to right-wingers."
"In some ways, it makes it look like the White House is kowtowing to right-wingers here, Mike," Brewer told MSNBC correspondent Mike Viqueira Wednesday as she was addressing the Shirley Sherrod case and what the White House's role was in her firing. The next day, after discussing the apologies by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilisack, Brewer asked the same question.
"So what does it say then about how conservative cable controversies influence the White House?" Brewer asked liberal Washington Post editorialist Jonathan Capehart.
On Wednesday, in response to Brewer's question, Mike Viqueira chimed in on her talking points. "You know, it's virtually every week over the past year that we've heard the President take after the media, the current media culture, the 'gotcha' brigades that we are all so familiar with right now," he complained.
"Why then, because this was being reported on conservative media, and being played up so prominently, did they react so quickly, and in the end, so hastily?" Viqueira asked.
A transcript of segments from both days is as follows:
MSNBC NEWS LIVE 7/22/10
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC anchor: The White House has said this was the Agriculture Secretary's decision alone, but Sherrod says she was told the White House wanted her out. NBC's Mike Viquera is at the White House now. In some ways, it makes it look like the White House is cow-towing to right-wingers here, Mike.
MIKE VIQUEIRA: Well, it – you know, and that's one of the questions that we're going to get in about a half hour from now, when Robert Gibbs does his daily briefing. And Contessa, there are daily briefings, and then there are daily briefings, and this one is going to be one of the most anticipated in a few months, anyway. I mean, there are going to be questions about how the White House seems to be sensitive, perhaps overly sensitive, touchy even, to questions of race, and allegations that it would prefer or favor African-Americans in any given situation over the rest of the population. That they, going back to the Skip Gates case, and the Jerimiah Wright case, that of course led to the President's, as a campaigner, speech in Philadelphia, on race, that these issues have been something that the White House has always tried to avoid, with that notable exception of the speech. But it keeps popping back up and again.
Also, what did the President know, what did the White House know, what was the administration's role in this? You mentioned that the White House says they were unaware that this was actually, in the end, a tale of redemption, personal redemption, on the part of Shirley Sherrod. But why, then, did they go along so quickly, on these unsubstantiated and incomplete information. That incomplete video that you have pointed out, was edited somewhat selectively to say the least.
And finally, the White House's sensitivity towards the media, and in particular the conservative media. You know, it's virtually every week over the past year that we've heard the President take after the media, the current media culture, the "gotcha" brigades that we are all so familiar with right now. Why then, because this was being reported on conservative media, and being played up so prominently, that they react so quickly, and in the end, so hastily, Contessa?
MSNBC NEWS LIVE 7/23/10 12:03 p.m.-12:
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC anchor: It seems pretty clear that Vilsack was taking personal responsibility, and Robert Gibbs was carefully wording his apology for what was done, without saying who did it.
JOE WATKINS, MSNBC Political Analyst: No doubt, no doubt Contessa. But you know what? I have to give credit where credit is due. It's not about Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. I think Secretary Vilsack did the right thing, I think Robert Gibbs did the right thing. They both did the right thing by apologizing, by saying that a disservice had been done to Ms. Sherrod, that they were sorry for it, that she was owed an apology. I think that was perfect, exactly what the doctor ordered.
BREWER: Okay, so Joe, so what does it say then about how conservative cable controversies influence the White House? WATKINS: Well, you know, obviously, they’re watching very carefully, because the White House – and I worked for a U.S. President. White Houses tend to look at the polling data, they know exactly where they stand, especially when they get to the point where this White House is right now, where a majority of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing. They’re very very sensitive to how people feel, so they move quickly. And maybe this is part of the reason why you had what happened, happened, because we’re trying to move quickly to avert what could have been a disaster.
BREWER: You know, there are a lot of people who are e-mailing me about the story, and it’s surprising the number of e-mails that are coming in, particularly focused on the issue of race. Um, you have Glenn Gordon who is e-mailing me.
(Text of e-mail) "We are very informed, we read, and watch the news and are very aware of this President and the Dems taking the Black vote for granted. More than 9 in 10 of us got him elected. Bowing down to Fox News and the extreme right ring, and throwing Mrs. Sherrod under the bus 'broke the camel's back.' Almost everyone I know is apathetic now, they do not want to defend him, and plan to stay home this November and in 2012. Just look at the polls."
BREWER: Jonathan, is race a motivating – I mean, my big question today, in fact – is race a motivating factor when it comes to politics?