Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who posted the heavily edited video of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod that led to her unwarranted ouster last year, participated in a softball interview on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show yesterday. Among the critics of the interview was former MSNBC reporter David Shuster, who used his appearance as a guest-host on the Bill Press Show this morning to ask Breitbart some of the questions Ratigan ignored, including a few about the journalistic ethics of the Sherrod video.
SHUSTER: You yourself have acknowledged that you took the Shirley Sherrod video out of context, didn’t you?
BREITBART: No, I –, … No! No! No. I gave her her redemptive story. […]
Because what happened, I gave the context in the article. You acted, and the media acted, like the video dropped out of nowhere.
The video Breitbart originally published shows Sherrod telling a story about reluctantly helping a white farmer while she was a state worker in Georgia. The full video, however, reveals that the clip was part of Sherrod’s larger narrative about the importance of moving beyond racial biases. In a July 2010 interview with Newsweek, Breitbart acknowledged that the video was selectively edited and taken out of context:
Do you agree that the edited video took things out of context?
Well, yes. But I put up what I had. It granted a great portion of her redemptive tale, but not all of it. If I could do it all over again, I should have waited for the full video to get to me.
In one of several borderline ridiculous comparisons that went unchallenged, Breitbart told Ratigan yesterday that he considers himself “the Upton Sinclair of the mainstream media,” comparing himself to the muckraking journalist who highlighted numerous social injustices in the early 20th century. His passion, he said, is holding the media accountable, and it angers him when reporters fail to present “exculpatory evidence” to back up their stories. Ratigan, meanwhile, fawned over Breitbart throughout the interview, calling him a “sharpshooter who’s good” and an “incredibly passionate and effective man,” and mysteriously saying he didn’t “even have an interest in debating the issues” with Breitbart.