Tina Brown, whose massive losses at Newsweek and the Daily Beast are a matter of public ridicule, stepped up to the microphone at National Public Radio this morning in an attack on the late Andrew Breitbart that revealed why she and her mainstream media enterprise are such failures.
Brown recommended David Carr’s profile of Andrew Breitbart, which ran in this week’s New York Times. The profile, while generally positive, included a bizarre ad hominem swipe at Breitbart, and also mangled the facts of the Shirley Sherrod controversy.
Drawing a parallel between Breitbart and the behavior of journalists who aided the rise of Adolf Hitler, Brown told an amenable Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep:
Breitbart didn’t report anything, really. What Breitbart did was, he was a provocateur, he was a ‘death by a thousand tweets’; he was quite happy to take the flying soundbite, any soundbite, and misapply it in its context and create an absolute mayhem for the person concerned–like he did for poor Shirley Sherrod, who was the obscure official in the Agriculture Department. He gave the impression by the cutting of her words in a tape that he released that she was giving racially motivated financing decisions–when actually she was doing the very opposite. So this was really using a kind of bastardization of journalism through the format of Web and tweeting and, you know, just simply using the Internet as a tool for activism.
Brown’s claim that “Breitbart didn’t report anything, really” is a laughable accusation that Anthony Weiner could easily refute. And Brown’s pathetic resort to comparisons with Hitler and Nazi Germany affirms Godwin’s Law while discrediting anything she has to say.
What is particularly interesting, however, is Brown’s description of the Sherrod controversy, during which she uses Carr’s exact words–verbatim, barely paraphrasing, and without indicating that she is lifting directly from Carr and the Times, not offering her own analysis.
Compare what Carr wrote, below, to Brown’s words above:
Working with Mr. [James] O’Keefe, [Breitbart] also used heavily edited video clips to savage Ms. Sherrod, an obscure official at the Agriculture Department, by giving the appearance that she had made racially motivated financing decisions, when actually she had done the opposite.
In addition to copying Carr almost word for word, Brown repeats his mistakes: every contention in the preceding paragraph is wrong.
First, James O’Keefe had nothing to do with the Sherrod video whatsoever.
Second, the video clips posted in Breitbart’s blog were not “heavily edited”–nor were they “misleadingly edited,” as Carr contends elsewhere in his article. They include–as Andrew never tired of pointing out–the exculpatory arc of Ms. Sherrod’s story, in which she helped a white farmer against whom she previously had discriminated.
(For an example of heavy and misleading editing, carried out with the deliberate intent to smear someone as a racist, look no further than the New York Times‘s editing of George Zimmerman’s 911 call, which made it appear Zimmerman had been motivated by racism to kill Trayvon Martin.)
Third, Ms. Sherrod was not an “obscure” official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but a public figure in an appointed position.
Finally, Carr misrepresents what Breitbart said about Sherrod. Breitbart did not say “she had made racially motivated financing decisions”; he expressed the opinion that “her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.”
That error not only confuses fact and opinion, but indicates that–like most of Andrew’s critics on this issue–Carr has neither watched the video clips, nor seen Ms. Sherrod’s entire video, nor read Breitbart’s full blog post.
And neither has Brown, whose copycat attack–a false as it is vicious–proves everything that Andrew Breitbart had said about the mainstream media: that they lie, that they are lazy, that they are hopelessly left, and that they are losing.