There is a playground rule that even little girls learn: never give in to bullies. If you do, you’re done. Bullies are never satisfied until they’ve completely dominated you, humiliating you on a daily basis.
By firing Shirley Sherrod out of fear of right-wing bullies, the Obama administration ran afoul of that basic playground rule. The bullies are celebrating. And they’ll be back.
Andrew Brietbart is one of those bullies. He’s a rightwing activist who has already ruined ACORN with selectively edited videos. He has called well-respected black members of Congress “liars” because they reported the racial jeers and slurs they got from some tea party protestors on the day of the health care vote.
Rush Limbaugh is one of those bullies. On Tuesday, by the time many legitimate news outlets had backtracked and pointed out that Sherrod’s story was one of reconciliation, Limbaugh was still calling her a racist.
Glenn Beck is one of those bullies. Nearly every day, he finds a way to call Barack Obama a “racist.” Never mind that Obama was reared by his white mother and white maternal grandparents.
While the administration claims that fear of the vast rightwing conspiracy played no role in the Sherrod affair, the facts suggest otherwise:
From Howard Kurtz, WaPo media critic:
Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say “do it, because you’re going to be on ‘Glenn Beck’ tonight.” . .
Breitbart has worked closely with Fox opinion hosts in the past, most notably when he posted videos of two young activists ostensibly posing as a pimp and prostitute and seeking help from ACORN offices. Breitbart promoted those tapes on Sean Hannity’s Fox program and the network gave them heavy play.
The administration’s concern about Beck stems in part from his campaign last year that prompted the resignation of White House environmental official Van Jones over divisive remarks–a controversy that some news organizations acknowledged they were too slow to cover. Ironically, Beck defended Sherrod Tuesday, saying that “context matters” and he would have objected if someone had shown a video of him at an AA meeting saying he used to pass out from drinking but omitting the part where he says he found Jesus and gave up alcohol.
Bill O’Reilly, who has — remarkably — become a bit of a voice of conscience on Fox News, apologized for disseminating Breitbart’s video:
On Monday night, O’Reilly played the clip posted by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart on his site BigGovernment.com. He led his Wednesday program by criticizing some of Sherrod’s language but acknowledging his own mistake: “I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework. . . . and for not putting her remarks into proper context.”
Don’t expect any such apology from Breitbart. He will do the same thing again since it worked to embarrass the Obama administration before.