The lessons Shirley Sherrod has taught us all

Published 10:10 am Friday, July 23, 2010

The story is that of classic overreaction, a woman fired when her words were misrepresented, and before she could explain the actual content and meaning of her speech before the NAACP.

In fact, Ms. Sherrod was telling a parable of race relations and how seeing the Other as an individual is the real basis for ending racial division.

But a right wing blogger cut and pasted sound bites of the speech, leaving out the actual intent, in order to misrepresent the words spoken as a reverse racist presentation.

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But how did the intentional lie of a web blogger, Tea Party speaker, and a Right Wing extremist end up in the major media? Given the bloggers past, and considering that any full listening to the entire speech would discredit the bloggers cut and paste job, what media would accept his clip?

Only the Fox network, a media source known for not confirming sources, authenticating content, or using basic rules of good journalism.

Major media outlets have some basic rules before they publish, and among them is perhaps the most basic rule, confirmation of the source by a second, independent, source.

Fox apparently has no such policy.

In contrast, CNN approached the article as journalists have been taught. CNN saw the clipped video and withheld using it until they watched the entire video and interviewed Ms. Sherrod. This permitted CNN to avoid broadcasting what was simply a lie advanced by a blogger intending to sell the lie.

But Fox went a great deal farther than simply broadcasting the lie…the network’s commentators attacked Ms. Sherrod and the Obama presidency without regard for the facts.

Newt Gingrich, potential Presidential candidate in 2012, rushed to proclaim Ms. Sherrod a racist, as he claimed now Justice Sotomayor to be a racist when she was a Supreme Court candidate.

The attack, false and malicious, unfounded and unsubstantiated, has brought no apology from Fox or the Fox commentators.

Yet when Dan Rather could not provide second source proof of his criticism of President Bush’s military service, these very commentators drove Rather from the industry.

But the attack is more than a bloggers false charge on a good public servant, it is an attack on the Obama presidency, an attempt to convince voters that the first black president is a reverse racist, surrounding himself with people of color attempting to get even with white Americans for past discrimination.

The Sherrod attack was not the first volley of this ambitious right wing campaign to paint the president as a black man white Americans should fear.

It was just the best example of how far the political right and their media, Fox, bloggers and AM radio jockeys will go to create a false narrative about this presidency.

Some Americans will be convinced by this malicious attack, based upon fear and lies. Certainly those who think their “news” is solely sourced from the right will consider these charges are meaningful even though they are based upon lies and built upon a foundation to discredit the presidency with false claims.

But for the most part Americans are good and fair people, who will see the lies and their advancement as dishonest.

The Obama administration must stop tolerating this attack and fight back.

Those who would make the case for fearing the black president and his black supporters as seeking to punish white people are doing little more that hoping to undermine America for their own political expediency.

There is no honor in their actions, and great shame in their motives.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.