Several weeks ago, Huffington Post writer Lee Stranahan embarked on a multi-state mission through the American south to do what our media won’t do: interview the farmers and lawyers involved with the Pigford case, the most underreported government scandal of our generation. Stranahan has been posting videos to his personal Youtube account as well as publishing his ongoing series over at Big Government. Reported yesterday:
The videos that Big Government broke yesterday showing farmers Eddie Slaughter and Willie Head saying that congressman Sanford Bishop knew about fraud in the Pigford Settlement appear to have broken Congressman Bishop. An angry Bishop called the local paper in Albany, Georgia and far from denying the claims that he know about fraud and did nothing about it, he readily admits it.
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After seeing the videos on Big Government, Bishop first called up the Albany Herald to angrily address the farmers’ remarks and confirmed once again that he knew of the Pigford fraud famously saying “You can’t lay that at my feet:”
“Yes, I am aware that there is fraud in the program, that’s why anti-fraud provisions were written into the settlement,” Bishop said Thursday morning.
Writer Terry Lewis called Stranahan’s sources from the video series, namely Eddie Slaughter, who confirmed the legitmacy of his own remarks in Stranahan’s video:
Contacted by telephone Thursday night, Slaughter confirmed that the video accurately represented what he said.
“They’re paying the non-farmers,” he said. “We’re suffering from this injustice. The bona fide farmers are the ones paying the price.”
He said he asked Bishop why he wouldn’t investigate how much money was going to non-farmers and also said that the problems with proper recipients of the settlement started when lawyers got involved in the Pigford case.
Bishop confirmed that he knows Slaughter.
After admitting to the Albany Herald that he knew of Pigford fraud, he apparently began to worry over his admission. Some time between the publishing of the Herald‘s piece and his interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution he changed his story:
Videos featuring two Georgia farmers that are being circulated on the Web by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart hint that Bishop, of Albany, may have known about possible fraud in last year’s so-called “Pigford” settlement between the government and black farmers who claimed that a Department of Agriculture farm loan program discriminated against them.
“I don’t know what they were imbibing,” Bishop said of the two farmers after watching the videos. “I’m just perplexed and shocked.”
How can Bishop be “perplexed and shocked?” He admitted prior to the Atlanta interview that he knew of the Pigford fraud, knew Slaughter, and he verified their claims, although he was angry at having been discovered.
Not only did Bishop change his story, but the AJC shamelessly tried to help him pass off his alleged complicity in the Pigford fraud by manufacturing him as some sort of victim of Andrew Breitbart:
Breitbart created a national stir last summer when he posted on the Web an edited video apparently showing Shirley Sherrod, a former Department of Agriculture official in Georgia, making racist remarks at a public meeting. Sherrod, an African-American, was quickly fired — but an embarrassed President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack later apologized and offered to rehire her after a review of the incident showed that Breitbart took her remarks out of context.
In the new Breitbart videos, South Georgia farmers Eddie Slaughter and Willie Head complain that Bishop, who also is an African-American, did nothing when they asked him to investigate the Pigford settlement.
First, Bob Keefe needs to educate himself on the difference between posting an “edited” video and posting an “excerpt” of a full-length video – the exculpatory portion of the entire video – an excerpt which is the exact same footage as in the full-length video posted on the NAACP’s website. Since the original video is the NAACP’s own footage, the only way it’s “edited” is if the NAACP edited the video.
Secondly, according to Stranahan, the suggestion that Breitbart is directing how Stranahan does his interviews (which have already been cited by Bishop and two different publications now as being legitimate) is absurd: “He [Breitbart] didn’t tell me what clips to pick or what questions to ask. I just drive around and talk to people and afterwards I post up video. We have the loosest possible relationship you can imagine. He gives me complete freedom to do whatever, there is no micromanaging.
I’m the one taking, editing, and posting the video – to my account, if you’ll notice.”
Keefe also contacted Stranahan’s sources:
Reached by phone, Slaughter and Head told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they were definitely unhappy with Bishop, their congressman, for not doing more to help them get a better settlement.
“He never even tried,” Head said.
But in separate interviews with the AJC, neither of the farmers said they thought Bishop was involved with any fraud.
“I’m not saying he did anything illegal,” Head said.
Why would you ask the farmers whether or not Bishop did anything illegal? Why would Keefe not ask the attorneys if Bishop’s silence on a billion-dollar fraud case is illegal? Isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do?
Bishop made hasty but true remarks to the Albany paper and then later in the day rethought his strategy and looked to Breitbart as the person whom to blame instead of himself. By the time he spoke with the AJC his story was a complete 180 from what he said earlier in the day – and its all published on the Internet. It’s amazing how the AJC didn’t bother to check Bishop’s remarks against anything he may have said on the case earlier.
Instead of taking the opportunity to practice journalism and stand apart from the countless other boring, dying publications, the AJC turned government lapdog and hurried to cover the backside of one Rep. Sanford Bishop.
It looks like the Atlanta Journal Constitution is taking sides against the black farmers in the Pigford case by covering for those officials eager to distance themselves from knowledge of the fraud.