The consensus from the establishment media is that everybody - beginning (first and foremost) with conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, and the Obama administration, and Fox News, and everybody else associated with the Shirley Sherrod affair came out smelling pretty funky.
So, the story that began Monday afternoon and was over by Thursday, was naturally debated by various talking heads on the Sunday morning talk shows.
The best arguments came on CBS' Bob Scheiffer Face the Nation program, just a couple of weeks he was raked over the coals by conservatives - none more than Bill O'Reilly - for interviewing Attorney General Eric Holder, and not discussing why his Justice Department is not investigating a case involving the New Black Panther Party, an obsession on Fox News the past few weeks.
Schieffer brought up that incident a member of his panel, Abigail Thernstrom from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who said there's really very little evidence to pursue the case from what's she's seen.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You said that all of this thing about The Black Panthers was small potatoes.
Why did you say that?
ABIGAIL THERNSTROM: Well, first place, you had two unappealing black guys, unappealing
because, you know, the New Black Panther Party is unappealing and its a racist party and so
forth show up at one largely black precinct in Philadelphia. And they stand around. One was
slapping a billy club against his wrist. But one, there is, we have no direct evidence that they
actually intimidated anybody, stopped them from voting. And two, we certainly have no direct
evidence that anybody in the Justice Department said oh, were not going to prosecute the—this
case because we have racial double standards. We protect blacks, we dont protect whites. And
my view, if anyone bothered to read my rather lengthy dissent on this issue, was there are more
important voting rights issues to talk about.
That case is instructive, because it's part of the backdrop that's been happening in conservative media lately. One is, to quote from the great Public Enemy record of 1990, is a Fear of A Black Planet, which seems to be subtext of stories aired in conservative media about a black president, black Attorney General, and others running somehow roughshod over the rights of the rest of America.
Of course, Breitbart continues to insist that his whole raison d'etre in distributing the Sherrod doctored tape was to call out the NAACP, so angry at them for calling members of the Tea Party movement racist.
Anyway, back to CBS, Bob Schieffer also had on his program two of pop culture's leading black intellectuals, Michael Eric Dyson and Cornell West. Schieffer asked West if he agreed with NY Times columnist Bob Herbert, who wrote on Saturday that the Obama administration runs away from any racial issues. West agreed:
CORNEL WEST (Princeton University): I think Bob Herbert is absolutely right and to have it
smiling others have been making this point with great insight. I think what you have is you have
a PR operation, where the White House is reluctant to want to intervene in issues of race. Let us
be clear what were talking about. Were talking about race. This is not just some deodorized
discourse. This is a history of black people being terrorized, traumatized, and stigmatized. To try
to convince black people that we are unworthy to have our poverty addressed, to have our bad
schools, our bad education, our unemployment rates, or underemployment rates to keep us
scared and intimidated. And this is what is so magnificent about Shirley Sherrod. She is
democratic nobility and black royalty. Shes an American hero. Shes a Christian soldier for
justice. Why? Because in the face of terror, in the face of trauma, in the face of being
stigmatized what does she do? Like Martin King, like Fannie Lou Hamer, I will love my way
through this darkness by promoting justice not revenge. Thats a great legacy of black people
that we see brown people trying to do the same thing in Arizona in the face of America turning
away. Now we have made great progress. Barack Obama is one example of that. But hes
caught in the middle. Brother Dyson is right about it. Hes caught in the middle. He got a PR
operation on the one hand not wanting to engage in the other. And I would say to my dear
brother Barack Obama, if you dont stand for something, youll fall for anything.
Somehow, blogger Andrew Breitbart, the Matt Drudge acolyte who has become a national media star this year (including positive portraits in Time and The New Yorker), conveniently took holiday this weekend, but in his interviews last week, he refused to even acknowledge a simple "I'm sorry" for his distribution of the misleading short video of her much longer speech in front of the NAACP in Georgia this spring (But he was around, as he's quoted in two NY Times stories this morning).
But Breitbart's toadies had his back, in the person of a fellow conservative blogger named Matt Lewis. Lewis went on CNN's Reliable Sources, and went off in criticizing (justifiably) the Obama administration for having Ag Sec. Tom Vilsack can Sherrod without getting her side of the story, but as Salon.com's Joan Walsh interrupted, the CNN program was focused on media issues, and he was painfully going out of the way not to mention the words Andrew and Breitbart, before Walsh called him on it.
WALSH: Matt, this is a media show. This is a media show. Let's talk about media culpability.
And if you can't say — if you're going to sleep tonight after not saying that Breitbart should apologize, I don't know about your conscience. You ran — you interviewed him and you let him run his mouth saying that this still shows racism in the NAACP.
You didn't challenge him one bit. You gave him —
LEWIS: Well, everybody should go read my PoliticsDaily story and let them —
WALSH: I did.
LEWIS: Because I think I did challenge him. I think you're wrong. But look, you're at Netroots Nation. I would expect you to possibly take that standpoint anyway.
WALSH: Excuse me? I'm not at Netroots Nation. Are you on this planet? I'm in San Francisco. I'm not at Netroots Nation.
LEWIS: OK. Oh, it's San Francisco. I'm sorry.
KURTZ: Let me just talk about Shirley Sherrod —
Fox News also had its presentation on the issue with a guy who's thrown a few racial bombs himself over the years, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In fact, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked him about his propensity for making such rash judgments on Sonia Sotomayor last year, and on Shirley Sherrod last week, that he ultimately had to walk back.
Moments later, former DNC Chair Howard Dean flat out called Fox News racist:
"Fox News did something that was absolutely racist," Dean said. "They had an obligation to find out what was really in the clip. They had been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this business and this Sotomayor and all this other stuff."
All in all, some pretty lively discussions on a late July Sunday morning. Too bad the guy responsible for all of it was hiding out somewhere, watching but not participating.