Report: Breitbart used 'wrong video' to claim Dem lawmakers lied about racial slurs
For weeks, an argument has been raging between liberal and conservative commentators over whether or not Tea Party protesters yelled racist and homophobic slurs at Democratic lawmakers on the day the House passed the health care overhaul.
During a March 20 anti-health reform Tea Party protest at Capitol Hill, numerous Democratic lawmakers said they had been the targets of abusive language.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly gay member of the House, said he had been called a "fa**ot." Three black members of Congress -- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- said they had been called "ni**er," and that the epithet had been hurled at them some 15 times as they arrived at the House of Representatives for a meeting.
Stung by such potent linking of the Tea Party movement to racism and homophobia, conservative pundits began to fire back. At the head of the pack was Matt Drudge ally Andrew Breitbart, who asserted that the incidents never happened and offered $10,000 for video footage proving otherwise. He has since increased his offer to $100,000.
"ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up," Breitbart wrote. "Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N-word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once."
To back up his claim, Breitbart posted a short video clip of Reps. Lewis and Cleaver, among others, walking through the protest with no racial slurs audible on the video.
But an article from the Associated Press says the video Breitbart trumpeted was not shot at the time the black lawmakers say they were targeted with the N-word; rather, the video was shot an hour later, as the group emerged from a congressional meeting. They had alleged that they were targeted as they were walking into the meeting.
Asked by AP about the inconsistency, Breitbart responded, "I'm not saying the video was conclusive proof."
On Sunday, the Washington Post's ombudsman asserted that there was at least some truth to the allegations of abusive behavior at the protest.
Responding to criticism of the paper's coverage by conservative activists, ombudsman Andrew Alexander went through a list of allegations of slurs, and found merit in many of them:
Many readers have told me there is no evidence to support The Post's report that Frank was subjected to anti-gay slurs. They're wrong. An ABC News video recorded the incident inside a House office building. When ABC aired its video, the epithets were bleeped. A review of the unaltered footage, made by ABC at my request, clearly captures a protester shouting, "Barney, you faggot." Case closed.
Alexander wrote that video footage does show that Rep. Cleaver was spat on as he walked through the crowd, but he says the video "suggests" Cleaver may have been spat on accidentally.
And he also reported that spokespeople for Reps. Carson and Lewis are standing by their assertion that they were repeatedly called the N-word.
"Breitbart's $100,000 challenge may be publicity-seeking theater. But it's part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including The Post, swallowed a huge fabrication," Alexander wrote, in calling for reporters to get back onto this story and determine the truth.
"After all, a civil rights legend is being called a liar. That aside, there's serious money at stake," he wrote.