MSNBC's Keith Olbermann made a brief return from a two-week vacation Wednesday to deliver a "special comment" on how a selectively edited videotape that the conservative media ran with cost a USDA worker her job this week.
Olbermann compared Shirley Sherrod to the story of an innocent French infantryman that was unfairly convicted and sent to prison in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus was later released and reinstated.
Like Dreyfus, selectively edited evidence led to a presumption of guilt instead of innocence, Olbermann essentially argued. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked Sherrod to resign and the NAACP condemned her before the unedited video tape had been seen.
After seeing the full video, the NAACP, Vilsack and the White House apologized and she was offered a new job with the Department of Agriculture.
"Well we need to congratulate ourselves," said Olbermann. "How far we have come! We can pull a Dreyfus faster than the French could in 1894. Eighty-two days until they sent him to Devil's Island? We did it to Shirley Sherrod in 48 hours."
Olbermann believes there's plenty of blame to go around for the quick condemnation of Sherrod.
"We -- the howling fools of the far right, the stand-aside pathetic bureaucrats of the Department of Agriculture, the whole of the cowering media, this network included, the whole of the government, this self-defeatingly above-it-all president, included," he said.
But clearly he thinks the bulk of fault lies with Andrew Breitbart and Fox News.
"Shirley Sherrod has been to her own Devil's Island, and thanks to the perpetual fraud machine that is Fox News, and the scum that is this assassin Breitbart, there will be a portion of this country - the mindless, the hateful, the reactionary, the racist - to whom she is forever convicted and ever imprisoned," said Olbermann.
"And today the proof lies in front of you, bleeding: the reputation of Shirley Sherrod, a woman who 24 years ago saw and overcame the vengeance in her own heart and achieved the kind of true greatness the rest of us can only hope we might express for one moment in the whole of our lives. Assassinated by Fox News! Assassinated by that scum Breitbart! Assassinated by all their meager-brained imitators on other channels and other sites, their limp fellow travelers who never asked questions first, but simply shot, and shot, and shot, and shot and laughed!"
Olbermann continued to assail the conservative news network. "Let me make this utterly clear: What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites, is the utter and complete perversion of journalism, and it can have no place in a civilized society. It is words crashed together, never to inform, only to inflame. It is a political guillotine. It is the manipulation of reality to make the racist seem benevolent, and to convict the benevolent as racist -- even if her words must be edited, filleted, stripped of all context, rearranged, fabricated, and falsified, to do so."
His own network shares in the culpability for allowing Breitbart airtime, explained Olbermann.
"The legitimate media didn't first look at the whole videotape. We didn't first ask if the doctored clip perverted by the scum Breitbart didn't seem to be leading up to a 'however.' We didn't, even today, when even this network let this pornographer of propaganda Breitbart come on and spew his lies and his venom and his fraudulent self-defense like a quack doctor attending a life-or-death surgery, we didn't once... consider the source," he said.
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast July 21, 2010.