by Randa Morris
September 23, 2015
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A lawsuit filed in 2011 by former Agricultural Department official Shirley Sherrod against right-wing propaganda manufacturer Andrew Breitbart was settled out of court on Tuesday. The undisclosed settlement awards damages to Sherrod, who was the victim of a ruthless right-wing smear campaign, initiated by the late Andrew Breitbart in 2010.
In March of 2010, Breitbart posted two highly edited videos of a speech given by Sherrod at an event sponsored by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. The edited videos, along with commentary written by Breitbart, reportedly showed that Sherrod was racist against white people. Other right wing media outlets, including Fox News, which posted the doctored videos to its website, and aired them on the O’Reilly factor, immediately followed Breitbart’s lead.
As right-wing heads exploded over the supposedly racist remarks made by Sherrod, the NAACP and USDA also came forward to condemn Sherrod’s statements. She was fired from her position with the Georgia Agricultural Department over the misleading videos.
Once Sherrod released the unedited video, it became immediately clear that her remarks had been taken out of context. The NAACP and USDA recanted their criticism. President Obama personally reached out to Sherrod, admitting that the Agricultural Department had botched its handling of the non-scandal. Although Sherrod was offered another position in the Obama administration, and the president personally asked her to return, she ultimately declined.
Sherrod published a book about her ordeal in 2012, titled The Courage To Hope: How I Stood Up To The Politics Of Fear.
Sherrod was interviewed by NYC Radio host and award winning international journalist Esther Armah, for Between the Lines in September of 2012. Watch the short clip below, courtesy of the Schomburg Center on YouTube.
Although Andrew Breitbart died of natural causes in 2012, his legacy of false accusations, dubiously edited videos and baseless attacks against innocent people lives on. The Breitbart News Network, which includes a host of websites that circulate right-wing propaganda, remains a “trusted source” of news and information, specifically aimed at those who shun facts, in favor of a daily dose of fear and hate.
Another victim of Breitbart, Juan Carlos Vera, was awarded $100,000 following a lawsuit against James O’Keefe, the creator of the bogus videos that targeted ACORN in 2008. Breitbart coordinated the release of O’Keefe’s doctored videos, which were likewise distributed throughout the entire right wing propaganda network. As with Sherrod’s case, the release of the unedited videos proved that O’Keefe’s smear campaign against ACORN workers was completely misleading. But right wing politicians in Congress used the bogus smear campaign to defund the program, which was one of the nation’s largest social justice advocacy organizations. In spite of multiple investigations clearing ACORN employees of any wrong doing, the right wing Congress continued to play off the ignorance of their base, voting to defund the program again and again, long after ACORN ceased to exist.
Unfortunately, prosecutors granted O'Keefe immunity from prosecution, in exchange for the unedited ACORN videos. That left him free to release a similar “undercover video,” this time targeting Obamacare navigators. Yet again, the right wing propaganda network distributed the doctored videos, knowing that they were bogus.
That brings us to the doctored Planned Parenthood tapes, which have been circulated all across right-wing media outlets since they were released by the likely criminal organization, Center For Medical Progress. As usual, the release of the unedited video shows that the versions distributed by right wing propaganda outlets were dubiously edited to make it appear that the organization was “selling aborted fetuses,” while the unedited videos clearly show otherwise. Not surprisingly, the group behind the Planned Parenthood videos has very close ties to O’Keefe.
This tactic of releasing videos purposely doctored to mislead anyone who watches them, has worked quite well for the right wing in the past. Their base has proven time and time again that they are extremely easy to deceive. Giving right wing voters fake videos that support their biases is worth the lawsuits and the criminal prosecutions. (O’Keefe was sentenced to three years probation, fines and community service, after he pulled a Watergate style break-in at the office of a democratic senator.)
As we saw with ACORN, it doesn’t matter if the videos are proven to be doctored. The right wing base is trained to disregard any information that isn’t generated from inside the conservative propaganda bubble. There are millions of right wing voters out there who still think O’Keefe’s ACORN videos were a real and accurate portrayal of ACORN’s work. There are millions of right wing supporters who still believe that Obamacare navigators were engaging in criminal activities. These are the same people who will remain devoted to the lies told about Planned Parenthood, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
The right wing was able to successfully use the bogus ACORN videos to kill funding for the organization, which helped to register democratic voters. In the same way that they “snookered” people into believing the false campaign against Shirley Sherrod, they’re hoping that the Planned Parenthood videos will do the same. The republican congress just voted to defund Planned Parenthood , and Tea Party nut Ted Cruz is threatening another government shutdown, citing the faked videos as justification.
The reality is that the rabid republican/Tea Party base does not care if the videos are real or fake. They intend to use them to their full advantage. They’ve already learned that they can count on the majority of right wing voters to remain ignorant of the facts. While it seems like a risky gamble, it’s probably not. The people who know the videos are fake don’t vote for them anyways. The people who do vote for them will have their heads on a platter if they don’t at least pretend that the bogus videos are real.
As in Sherrod’s case, it will likely take years for the people behind the Planned Parenthood videos to face any legal or civil accountability. By that time, the right is hoping to have already achieved their goal of gutting women’s healthcare, cutting off access to contraception and family planning services and sending women back to the days of coat-hanger and back alley abortions.
This is what the conservative media does, lie, fabricate evidence and misrepresent facts entirely for political purposes.
*Featured image credit: US Department of Agriculture on flckr under creative commons license 2.0