Breitbart lied about Shirley Sherrod. Now he's lying about the NAACP.
You know, the first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he—he took a long time talking, but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. [Audience: Alright. Murmurs.] I know what he was doing. [Audience: Alright.] But he had come to me for help. [Audience: Amen.] What he didn't know, while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. [Laughter.]
The audience seems sympathetic to Sherrod's resentment of the farmer's arrogance, as she perceived it. How should we interpret the laughter? Is it laughter at her power to withhold help from a white man? Or is it laughter at her power to withhold help from a guy with an attitude? The evidence so far suggests the latter: The audience has embraced an appeal for "poor people," shunned an appeal for "black people only," and given Sherrod her only Amen when she noted that despite the farmer's attitude, "he had come to me for help." But let's keep listening.
I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. [Audience: Mm-hm.] So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. [Sherrod smiles and pauses. There's a single staccato noise somewhere in the room. No words, no laughter.] I did enough so that when he—I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture. And he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him. [Pause. Silence.]
This time, Sherrod has mentioned only the farmer's race, not his attitude. She delivers the crucial line—"So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do"—with a smile and a wry tone that invites any racist to laugh or blurt out approval. But she gets nothing. I had to listen to this clip more than a dozen times before I realized that the "applause" Breitbart describes could only be the staccato noise. To interpret this as applause, you would have to believe that a single person, representing an otherwise silent audience, suddenly decided to change the congregation's language of affirmation from call-and-response to clapping—and just as suddenly, after a single stroke, decided to stop.
As Sherrod renounces her old attitude, the audience comes alive:
Well, working with him made me see [Audience: Mm-hm] that it's really about those who have versus those who don't [Audience: That's right, that's right], you know. And they could be black, and they could be white; they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people—those who don't have access [Audience: Mm-hm] the way others have [Audience: Mm-hm].
So, let's review the Breitbart gang's allegations:
When … she expresses a discriminatory attitude towards white people, the audience responds with applause.False.
The NAACP … is cheering on a person describing a white person as the other. False.
The NAACP audience seemed to have approved of her actions when she talked about not helping the white farmer.False.
They weren't cheering redemption; they were cheering discrimination. False.
As Ms. Sherrod recounted the first part of her parable, how she declined to do everything she could for the farmer because of his race, the audience responded in approval.False.
First Breitbart and his acolytes falsely accused Sherrod of discriminating against whites as a federal employee, despite having no evidence for this charge in the original video excerpt. Strike one.
Then they misrepresented Sherrod's story as an embrace of racism, when in fact she was repudiating racism. They later pleaded ignorance of this fact because they didn't have the full video. Strike two.
Now, with the full video in hand and posted on their Web site, they're lying about the reaction of the NAACP audience.
The excuses are all used up, Mr. Breitbart.
Video: Andrew Breitbart's Freakouts Caught on Tape
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.