An unrepentant Andrew Breitbart told POLITICO on Thursday that the Obama administration and its allies have manufactured a controversy over the video he posted of Shirley Sherrod’s speech to the NAACP as part of an orchestrated effort to take him down.
“I am public enemy No. 1 or 2 to the Democratic Party, the progressive movement and the Obama administration based upon the successes my journalism has had,” Breitbart said in a telephone interview late Thursday morning as he headed to the airport for what he said was a long-planned, three-day vacation.
Breitbart asserted that liberal media outlets are shifting the focus to the misleading excerpting in the videos he posted — as well as his erroneous statement about the context of the footage — to divert attention from what he asserts is a double standard on racist behavior exposed by the video, which he released Monday to push back against a recently passed NAACP resolution expressing concern about “racist elements” in the tea party movement.
“The desire here is to make it about me and not the Democratic establishment and the NAACP vs. the tea party,” Breitbart said, defending the footage he posted as “a self-contained newsworthy video that established the media standard of pointing out that the NAACP countenanced racism in its own award dinner setting. That was the point. That was the point. And the video proves it.”
He offered no apology to Sherrod but said that she has not been held accountable for the racial overtones of what she said.
“If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod’s entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white,” he said.
Asked whether he would have more thoroughly vetted the original video if he had it to do over again, Breitbart wouldn’t say.
“Let me think about that,” he said. “You’ll have to ask me (later). I am right now about to get out of the car to go to the airport, and I’ll think about this for another time, because I’m being inundated with falsehoods left and right that are making it impossible for me to have a 40,000-feet-above-it-all perspective of what’s going on. All I’m seeing is people right now seeing blood in the water and coming after me. And the amount of half-truths and falsehoods that are out there in the pursuit of taking me down because they perceive that I’m a threat, it’s astounding.”
He did say “I believe that I’m held to a higher standard. If this video showed a picture of a Caucasian talking in the exact same way but talking about a black person with an audience affirming and clapping that behavior, the reporter would be getting a Pulitzer Prize right now.”
The video excerpts Breitbart posted Monday on his Big Government website appeared to show Sherrod, until recently an Agriculture Department official, recalling during a March 27 appearance at an NAACP banquet in Georgia her discriminatory attitude against a white farmer. Breitbart on Wednesday issued a correction that did not directly address the central issue raised by the editing — that it misrepresented what Sherrod had said.
The original footage sparked wide condemnation of Sherrod — including from the NAACP — and she was forced to resign from the Agriculture Department.
But, when the NAACP released the full video of her speech, it showed her describing that she actually had set aside her racial assumptions and helped the farmer, while concluding that “there is no difference between us” — prompting apologies from the NAACP, President Barack Obama and others, and an offer to have her job back.
The incident took place while she was working at a nonprofit group — well before she went to work at the Agriculture Department in 2009. It was this issue that Breitbart’s correction addressed.
“While Ms. Sherrod made the remarks captured in the first video featured in this post while she held a federally appointed position, the story she tells refers to actions she took before she held that federal position,” the correction read.
Breitbart described the correction as stemming from “misunderstanding the timeline of the thing based upon (Sherrod’s) after-the-fact (explanation) of when this transpired” so “I offered a correction. Journalists offer corrections.”
Asked if he regretted the error, he said “anybody that issues a correction is offering a regret — it’s manifestly obvious.”
Breitbart insisted that he received only the video excerpts he posted, not the full speech, and he refused to answer questions about the motivations or identity of the source, saying only “I’m protecting that person’s identity.”
On Tuesday, he told Fox News’s Sean Hannity the video came from “an individual in Georgia who is worried of — worried about being exposed and attacked like Joe the plumber reached out to me,” and asserted in an interview with CNN’s John King that he has more similar video, which he asserted shows “even more racism.”
He wouldn’t answer POLITICO’s questions about whether he had doubts about that additional video or intended to post it.
But he did assert that the footage missing from the Sherrod video that he posted didn’t substantively change the story and said that he posted some footage in which she said she realized class was more significant a factor than race.
“The media is misportraying me — deceptively editing this story to make it appear that the video that I put out there, I edited — it’s false, and that’s malicious,” Breitbart said. “They’re also saying that I kept out the exculpatory stuff. The exculpatory narrative is not only in the tail end of the excerpt, but it’s reasserted in my text description.”
Breitbart was equally defiant when asked whether it counted against him that he had to clarify or correct aspects of both of the major stories he’s broken — the Sherrod saga and a video expose of the liberal community organizing group ACORN.
The ACORN videos, which played a major role int the group’s demise, left the false impression that Breitbart protégé James O’Keefe was dressed in a cartoonish pimp suit while secretly filming ACORN employees offering advice on how to set up a brothel for underage girls — a claim Breitbart echoed, though he later admitted he “did not know that there was a discrepancy” between O’Keefe’s dress during an introductory sequence in the videos and what he wore during his secretly filmed discussions.
Referring to both the ACORN and Sherrod exposes, Breitbart told POLITICO Thursday “they were extensive stories where the lion’s share — 99.99999 percent was accurate — and that which wasn’t, we corrected the record. And none of it affected the material aspects of the story.”