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Mar 2, 2012

How Breitbart Got Away With His Lies


03/02/2012 by Peter Hart

Kudos to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post (3/2/12) for talking about the obvious deceptions and inaccuracies in right-wing publisher Andrew Breitbart's work

News organizations found, for example, that the ACORN videos--which purported to show a young Mr. Breitbart ally named James O'Keefe posing as a pimp seeking advice from the organization about how to establish a brothel and evade taxes--actually presented a heavily edited account of what had happened.

An investigation by the California attorney general's office concluded that O'Keefe had added footage of himself and an ally dressed in flamboyant costumes that they had not worn to ACORN's offices. By then, it was too late for ACORN: Outraged conservatives in Congress stripped the organization of federal funding.

Andrew Breitbart--photo by Gage Skidmore

Andrew Breitbart (by Gage Skidmore)

The Sherrod and NPR videos also misrepresented key parts of those stories. In the former, Mr. Breitbart presented only a brief clip of a speech in which Sherrod acknowledged that she had discriminated against a white farmer when she was a state agriculture official in Georgia. The subsequent uproar in 2010 prompted the Obama administration to seek her resignation. By day's end, however, the full video of Sherrod's speech emerged, revealing that she had gone on to condemn her own actions and to seek justice for the white farmer. An embarrassed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized and offered Sherrod her job back.

The NPR "sting" showed two fundraisers for the media organization making disparaging comments about conservatives during a lunch in Georgetown. Among other things, the edited tape presented one of the NPR executive's more incendiary comments as his own when, in fact, he had been quoting others.NPR's chief executive, Vivian Schiller, resigned a day later as conservative lawmakers intensified efforts to deny federal funding to public broadcasters. (That effort failed.)

As many have pointed out, these lies live on. An piece on Breitbart--since corrected--referred matter-of-factly to how he "broke the ACORN child sex trafficking scandal."

Which brings me to a weakness in Farhi's piece--his explanation of Breitbart's ability to get his work into the mainstream media:

He exploited a flaw of the contemporary news media: that in the rush to attract online traffic, news sources sometimes cast aside context and basic fact-checking. Many outlets reported Mr. Breitbart's "revelations" only to discover that the story was not as it had initially seemed.

Attributing Breitbart's success in getting media attention to a desire for "online traffic" is strange.  Old media outlets like the Post and the New York Times gave his work a huge boost. If there's a media flaw here--and there most certainly is--it is the willingness to let a right-wing activist get a free pass. It might be the fact that media outlets who are relentlessly, falsely battered for being "liberal" feel compelled to disprove the bogus charge by giving right-wing voices more ink and airtime.

The most interesting admission in the piece comes from Rich Lowry of the National Review:

Lowry said Mr. Breitbart "wasn't a journalist in the traditional sense of dotting every i and crossing every t." As such, his journalistic lapses "didn't damage him on the right. He wasn't playing by the traditional media rules."

That's a fairly damning assessment of the right, from the right.

Tags: ACORNAndrew BreitbartJames O'KeefePaul FarhiRich LowryShirley Sherrod

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Posted: Mar 2, 2012 5:17pm
Jul 12, 2011

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Posted: Jul 12, 2011 5:27pm
Dec 19, 2010

"Media Matters for AmericaDecember 17, 2010

Media Matters: The Fox News divide that never was

The internal divisions at Fox News are notorious. There is the Fox News primary, in which no fewer than five potential Republican presidential candidates and their varied supporters and detractors -- all on the Fox News payroll -- duke it out on a near-daily basis.

There are typical ego-driven competitions between on-air personalities, and an increasingly public divide at the network over dangerously unhinged host Glenn Beck.

But there is one divide that -- contrary to the insistence of Fox News executives -- simply does not exist: the one between its "news" and "opinion" shows.

Last year, The New York Times reported, "Fox argues that its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective," and quoted Michael Clemente, the channel's senior vice president for news, as saying: "The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page."

This is apparently an argument that works only on the very gullible, and on advertisers who want to pretend that by confining their ad buys to the channel's "news hours" they are not financially supporting very damaging conservative lies and smears.

How telling it will be to see who attempts to maintain this charade, now that Media Mattershas published internal emails from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon to his news staff directing them to call into question indisputable scientific facts in Fox's climate change reporting, and eschew "public option" for variations of "government option"in Fox's health care reform reporting, echoing advice from a prominent Republican pollster on how to help turn the public against reform.

The recently-released emails confirm what sources told Media Matters months ago: Pressure on Fox News journalists to "distort" straight reporting comes right from the top.

In October, one source with knowledge of the situation explained: "[There is] more pressure from Sammon to slant news to the right or to tell people how to report news, doing it in a more brutish way. A lot of the reporters are conservative and are glad to pick up news. But there is a point at which it is no longer reporting, but distorting things. ... [I]f you come in to say, 'ignore points of view and ignore facts,' then you are straying away from being a legitimate news reporter."

The problem, of course, is not just that the reporting on Fox News is wildly dishonest -- after all, a supermarket tabloid can be wildly dishonest, too -- it's that the lies and smears on Fox News have very real policy implications.

For example, following the release of Sammon's email ordering his news staff to cast doubt on climate science, Zoe Tcholak-Antitch, vice-president of the Carbon Disclosure Project,told Media Matters: "It is very disturbing to hear of this e-mail because it just goes further to sow seeds of doubt among the American population then makes it more difficult for the politicians to stand up for any type of legislation on climate change if they want to get elected."

Tcholak-Antitch added: "It obviously does have an impact on the American public. We are facing an issue that needs to be dealt with in a timely fashion. The danger is that this delays action. While it exists, it delays action and it hinders politicians from passing laws and regulations that will help a clean energy economy and create jobs for American people."

The irony is that News Corp. -- Fox News' parent company and (the blind eye it turns towards Fox notwithstanding) a recognized corporate leader in raising climate change awareness -- cites Tcholak-Antitch's Carbon Disclosure Project as an expert resource on the issue.

New York Congressman John Hall -- a Democratic member of the House global warming committee -- called Sammon's email "regrettable" and warned about the effects this sort of "slanted" coverage has on legislation:

The window of time we have left for action to prevent the worst case scenario may still be closing. ... We can't afford to waste two years if the changes are already happening. It is really important that the public gets educated. I do think Congress responds to public pressure. If the public is being misinformed, we have very little chance of reversing the trend.

Similarly, after Media Matters released Sammon's "government option" email, health care reform advocate Health Care for America Now issued a statement saying: "At a time when right-wing extremists were trying to make the case that the health care reform bill was a government takeover plot, Fox News incorporated politically charged language into its day-to-day reporting to mislead its audience into thinking the public option was something that it wasn't."

Indeed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact announced this week that its "Lie of the Year" is the false claim that the health care reform law is "a government takeover of health care." And yet, Fox News' "objective" reporters were ordered to play directly into that damaging narrative.

To be sure, many advertisers have taken a step in the right direction by refusing to support some of Fox News' deplorable "opinion" and "entertainment" shows -- after all, who wants to drag a hard-earned (and valuable) brand identity through the mud by associating it with people who call the president racist, or repeatedly claim "all terrorists are Muslim," orpromote anti-Semites, or engage in bizarre conspiracy theories?

In fact, just this week, Omaha Steaks pulled its ads from Beck's show, joining a growing list of over 100 advertisers that have done the same.

But while that may mean that Fox is forced to air "Foundation for a Better Life" commercials -- courtesy of conservative Phillip Anschutz -- five times in a row during Beck's show, it doesn't stop advertisers from subsidizing the lies on dozens of other Fox programs.

When asked several months ago about the Beck advertising boycott, Rupert Murdochclaimed, "We have not lost any business at all; some [advertisers] may have moved to other programs," but "it has not affected the total revenues or the profits."

Last year, Paul Rittenberg, a Fox advertising executive, made the same point to the Times. The Beck boycott "caus[ed] headaches" for Rittenberg's team, the Times reported, but "he said Fox 'hasn't lost a dime' because the ads were moved to different hours" -- presumably hours filled with so-called "objective" news reports that skittish advertisers thought were safely non-controversial.

A year ago, these advertisers may have been able to take false comfort in the Fox News canard that there exists any sort of division between Fox news and Fox opinion programming, but with the release of the Sammon emails, how long will they keep kidding themselves?"

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Posted: Dec 19, 2010 6:22am
Oct 31, 2010

Tell ABC News: Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies.

Breitbart is a known liar and serial race-baiter.Take action!

Clicking here will add your name to this petition:

Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies.

It's appalling that ABC News' election night coverage will include notorious propagandist and serial race-baiter Andrew Breitbart, who only months ago was publicly disgraced for falsely smearing Shirley Sherrod.

There are plenty of other conservatives who ABC News could turn to for analysis or commentary. By inviting someone like Breitbart to participate, ABC News is not only calling its own credibility into question, it is also serving to rehabilitate the credibility of Andrew Breitbart and legitimate more of his race-baiting lies.

I respectfully request that you rescind your offer inviting Andrew Breitbart to participate in your Election Day coverage. 

Click to sign.

Click here to add your name

One of the most precious assets of a news organization is its credibility.

So it's appalling that ABC News' election night coverage on Tuesday will include notorious propagandist and serial race-baiter Andrew Breitbart, who only months ago was publicly disgraced for falsely smearing Shirley Sherrod.

We cannot let this go unchallenged. That is why CREDO is joining with our friends at Color of Change to put a stop to this and tell ABC to rescind its invitation to Breitbart.

There are plenty of other conservatives who ABC News could turn to for analysis or commentary. By inviting someone like Breitbart to participate, ABC News is not only calling its own credibility into question, it is also serving to rehabilitate the credibility of Andrew Breitbart and legitimate more of his race-baiting lies.

Tell ABC News: Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies. Click here to automatically add your name to the petition.

The saga that led to Breitbart's very public identification as a liar who intentionally stokes racial animosity began when Breitbart released a heavily edited video of Sherrod, then an official with the USDA, which Breitbart claimed was "video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient."

In the hit piece Breitbart released, Sherrod (who is black) appears to be saying that she withheld aide to a white farmer because of his race. Breitbart's stated purpose for releasing the video was to defend the Tea Party from charges of racism leveled by the NAACP, and to further claim that the video showed that the NAACP, Democrats and the Obama administration were comfortable with black people discriminating against whites.

The only problem was that Breitbart lied about what Sherrod actually said.

The full video of her remarks clearly demonstrated that Sherrod not only aided the farmer, but was using the story to illustrate how viewing the situation through the narrow lens of race was the wrong thing to do.

As Mark Twain said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." That's what happened here.

After Breitbart's post, the story gained steam as news organizations breathlessly hyped Breitbart's video before verifying the basic story.

In the time it took for the truth to get out about the anti-racist message Sherrod very clearly both said and intended to communicate, Sherrod was publicly vilified and was fired from her job.

Multiple news organizations apologized on air and in print for the egregiously bad way they handled the over-hyped Sherrod incident-all of which was based on Breitbart's horribly irresponsible video and the absolutely misleading ways he characterized it.

It is infuriating and absurd that a news organization, just a few months later, would give Breitbart another chance to spread his deceit.

Tell ABC News: Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

One of the most disturbing implications of Breitbart's participation is that it was his site that was the launching pad of the mendacious videos that ultimately led to the collapse of ACORN, an organization that helped register and turnout voters in poor communities and communities of color.

In the last couple of weeks, we have already seen Republicans and their conservative allies preemptively level wild-eyed accusations of voter fraud (much of which is laden with racial overtones). This not only serves to incite the intimidation and harassment of legitimate voters in communities of color by those who believe the voter fraud conspiracy theories, it also sets the stage for claims that Democrats "stole the election" if and when Republican candidates don't win.

ABC News has a positive duty to spread true information and fight the spreading of lies. And that's doubly true when the lies underscore the deeply harmful notion that people of color are somehow scheming on a massive scale to subvert our democracy.

Yet by including the likes of Andrew Breitbart, ABC News is failing this public duty in huge way.

By including Breitbart, ABC News is providing him the means to reach people he would otherwise not reach with a deceitful message that will seem much more trustworthy than Breitbart deserves.

Tell ABC News: Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Thank you for working for a better world.

Becky Bond, Political Director 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

P.S ABC has started to backpedal in the face of growing criticism. On Friday, David Ford of ABC News confirmed to Media Matters that Breitbart "will be one of many voices on our air" on election night. But yesterday, the network started to distance itself from Breitbart. Andrew Morse, executive producer for ABC News Digital, issued a clearly defensive statement explaining that "Mr. Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage" and that his contribution will only be aired online at and Facebook.

ABC is clearly wavering. We need to put the pressure on so that they drop Breitbart entirely.

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Posted: Oct 31, 2010 12:42pm
Nov 24, 2008

Paulsons Cascade Of Lies and Secret Dealings with 700 Billion

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Posted: Nov 24, 2008 7:02am
Sep 11, 2007
Focus: Peace
Action Request: Phone Call
Location: United States

Remember when Colin Powell stood in front of the UN in 2003 to make his case for war? Remember how he lied about weapons of mass destruction?

Remember how the country was fooled into entering a disastrous war? Well, the Bush administration is pulling the same tricks again with the Petraeus report.

Examples of lies: Casualties are not being counted if shot in back of head, but are if shot in front of head, and those dying in car bombings are also not counted. Refugees are also not counted. All countries around Iraq have closed their borders due to being overwhelmed with refugees. Does this sound like 'success'?

Yesterday afternoon when General Petraeus presented to Congress what amounted to lies, exaggeration and p.r. spin about the "successes" of the so-called U.S. "troop surge" in Iraq, we were expected to sit in the room and quietly listen.

When polite political discourse in the halls of Congress countenances torture, murder, theft of resources, and ongoing occupation, we think that rudeness is the correct response. If it's embarrassing for women to shout out, "War criminal" at war criminals in expensive suits and military uniforms, then we are all for embarrassing ourselves.

Our CODEPINK heroes Medea, Liz, Desiree, Leslie and Mona made a distinctly unladylike scene in the Petaeus hearing. They stood up for truth in the face of official lies.

They stood up for the 2.2 million internally displaced Iraqis, the 2.5 million Iraqi refugees, and the 650,000 Iraqis and 3,700 U.S. soldiers -- more Americans than those killed in the horrific attacks on US soil six years ago today --who have died in this miserable war and occupation.

You can see the coverage we have received for our actions, from the New York Times to MSNBC, in our
;">press room. To find out how to join our feisty protests in DC and help us Whip Congress into Shape, ;">click here.

Thankfully some members of Congress are waking up. Today, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) plainly said "I don't buy it" to General Petraeus. Please help us get more of our Reps to stop buying Bush's war by signing our pledge to "
;">Whip Congress into Shape."

When you pledge to do a simple action every week to end the war, you will get a personalized pledge page to pass around to your friends, invite them to sign on, and watch your impact spread across the country! The CODEPINK member who inspires the most pledges by the end of each month will win an unforgettable trip to the CODEPINK house in DC!

This week, we're asking everyone to
;">call your Senators ( ">">202.224.3121) and say "Petraeus can only betray us. Don't be duped again. End Bush's war."

As Bush memorably said, "fool me once, shame on - -shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." He's right. We can't get fooled again. Let's make sure Congress can't, either.

Proud to be rude for peace,

Dana, Desiree, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jodie, Karin, Liz, Medea, Nancy, Pamela, Patricia, Rae, Samantha, and Vanessa

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Posted: Sep 11, 2007 8:34am
Sep 10, 2006

Torture is a new freedom and democracy watchword.

You cannot have freedom and democracy without torture, according to Bush and his major media outlet cronies.

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Posted: Sep 10, 2006 12:03pm


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