MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has some advice for the White House about reacting to conservative media stories: "Believing conservative spin about what's so wrong with you and then giving into that spin, is not an effective defense. In fact, it makes it worse."
The Obama administration had asked for the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod after a heavily edited video surfaced Monday on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website that appears to show her describing how she had denied help to a white family trying to save their farm. The story was quickly picked up by Fox News as an example of racial discrimination by the Obama administration.
The NAACP condemned Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked her to resign. After obtaining the unedited video, which showed that Sherrod had been describing an incident 24 years ago in which she did successfully help the white farmers, the NAACP apologized and Vilsack said he is willing to reconsider her firing.
Considering the rapid collapse of the original Breitbart story, Maddow had some tart comments to make on the Obama administration's hasty response.
"What is not really interesting about this whole situation is that Fox News is doing this," said Maddow on Tuesday. "This is what Fox News does. This is how they are different from other news organizations. This is why the White House argued months ago that Fox should be treated as a media organization, but not as a normal news organization, because they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t treat news the way a normal news organization treats news."
"What is interesting about this story is that the Obama administration inexplicably keeps falling for it," she continued.
"Dear White House, dear administration, believing conservative spin about what's so wrong with you and then giving into that spin, is not an effective defense against that spin," Maddow advised. "Just buying it and apologizing for it and doing whatever they want you to do doesn't make the problem of them lying about you go away. In fact, it makes it worse."
Breitbart has since asserted that his real target was not Sherrod but the NAACP, which has recently called on the Tea Party movement to expel racists from its ranks. According to Breitbart's Big Journalism site, the video "features Sherrod telling a tale of racism that is received by the NAACP audience with laughter and cheers. They werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cheering redemption; they were cheering discrimination. Upon hearing the cheers, Sherrod fails to offer any immediate clarification and even smiles right along with them."
Even conservative Jonah Goldberg, however, stated on Wednesday, "I think [Sherrod] should get her job back. I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart."
Goldberg went on to express a perception of the Obama administration that was strikingly similar to Maddow's. "Meanwhile, as a matter of politics,' he wrote, "I think this episode demonstrates that this White House is a much more tightly wound outfit than it lets on in public. The rapid-response firing suggests a level of fear over Glenn Beck and Fox that speaks volumes."
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast July 20, 2010.