Tell ABC News: Don’t give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies.
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One of the most precious assets of a news organization is its credibility.
So it’s appalling that ABC News’ election night coverage on Tuesday will include notorious propagandist and serial race-baiter Andrew Breitbart, who only months ago was publicly disgraced for falsely smearing Shirley Sherrod.
We cannot let this go unchallenged. That is why CREDO is joining with our friends at Color of Change to put a stop to this and tell ABC to rescind its invitation to Breitbart.
There are plenty of other conservatives who ABC News could turn to for analysis or commentary. By inviting someone like Breitbart to participate, ABC News is not only calling its own credibility into question, it is also serving to rehabilitate the credibility of Andrew Breitbart and legitimate more of his race-baiting lies.
The saga that led to Breitbart’s very public identification as a liar who intentionally stokes racial animosity began when Breitbart released a heavily edited video of Sherrod, then an official with the USDA, which Breitbart claimed was “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient.”
In the hit piece Breitbart released, Sherrod (who is black) appears to be saying that she withheld aide to a white farmer because of his race. Breitbart’s stated purpose for releasing the video was to defend the Tea Party from charges of racism leveled by the NAACP, and to further claim that the video showed that the NAACP, Democrats and the Obama administration were comfortable with black people discriminating against whites.
The only problem was that Breitbart lied about what Sherrod actually said.
The full video of her remarks clearly demonstrated that Sherrod not only aided the farmer, but was using the story to illustrate how viewing the situation through the narrow lens of race was the wrong thing to do.
As Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” That’s what happened here.
After Breitbart’s post, the story gained steam as news organizations breathlessly hyped Breitbart’s video before verifying the basic story.
In the time it took for the truth to get out about the anti-racist message Sherrod very clearly both said and intended to communicate, Sherrod was publicly vilified and was fired from her job.
Multiple news organizations apologized on air and in print for the egregiously bad way they handled the over-hyped Sherrod incident-all of which was based on Breitbart’s horribly irresponsible video and the absolutely misleading ways he characterized it.
It is infuriating and absurd that a news organization, just a few months later, would give Breitbart another chance to spread his deceit.
One of the most disturbing implications of Breitbart’s participation is that it was his site that was the launching pad of the mendacious videos that ultimately led to the collapse of ACORN, an organization that helped register and turnout voters in poor communities and communities of color.
In the last couple of weeks, we have already seen Republicans and their conservative allies preemptively level wild-eyed accusations of voter fraud (much of which is laden with racial overtones). This not only serves to incite the intimidation and harassment of legitimate voters in communities of color by those who believe the voter fraud conspiracy theories, it also sets the stage for claims that Democrats “stole the election” if and when Republican candidates don’t win.
ABC News has a positive duty to spread true information and fight the spreading of lies. And that’s doubly true when the lies underscore the deeply harmful notion that people of color are somehow scheming on a massive scale to subvert our democracy.
Yet by including the likes of Andrew Breitbart, ABC News is failing this public duty in huge way.
By including Breitbart, ABC News is providing him the means to reach people he would otherwise not reach with a deceitful message that will seem much more trustworthy than Breitbart deserves.
Thank you for working for a better world.
P.S ABC has started to backpedal in the face of growing criticism. On Friday, David Ford of ABC News confirmed to Media Matters that Breitbart “will be one of many voices on our air” on election night. But yesterday, the network started to distance itself from Breitbart. Andrew Morse, executive producer for ABC News Digital, issued a clearly defensive statement explaining that “Mr. Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage” and that his contribution will only be aired online at ABCNews.com and Facebook.
ABC is clearly wavering. We need to put the pressure on so that they drop Breitbart entirely.