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Bill O'Reilly apologizes to Shirley Sherrod for 'not doing my homework'

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly offered a rare mea culpa Wednesday, apologizing for airing a controversial tape of a speech given by a black U.S. Dept. of Agriculture official that was edited to make it appear she was racist.

Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign Monday after conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip of Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP dinner on his website BigGovernment.com in which she appeared to say that she had once discriminated against a white farmer. The edited clip did not include the portion of the speech in which Sherrod said the episode had taught her the importance of overcoming personal prejudices.

The video sparked a conflagration in the blogosphere and cable news that at first outraced the facts. O’Reilly was the first on cable to air the video, calling for Sherrod’s resignation Monday night. (By the time his taped show aired, she in fact had already resigned, a fact Fox News noted on the screen.)

On Wednesday, he said he should have gotten the full story first. “I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context,” he said on "The O'Reilly Factor," adding that his own words had been taken out of context by critics in the past. “I well understand the need for honest reporting.”

The rapid-fire denunciation of Sherrod, followed by hasty backtracking by her critics, underscored how quickly controversies can mushroom and then disintegrate in the current media age. Her resignation made headlines on cable news Monday night, getting covered extensively by Fox News’ prime-time commentators and reported on CNN before the context of her remarks was clear.

On Wednesday, the White House apologized to Sherrod, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered her a new position with the agency.

Both Sherrod and the NAACP – which first condemned her remarks, then reversed itself -- put the blame in part on Fox News for hyping the story, a charged the cable news channel rejected.

Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news editorial, said the network’s news programs reported the story with caution. “When I heard about this Monday morning and saw it on Breitbart’s website, I said, ‘OK, could be a story, let’s check it out,’ ” Clemente said. “We did the normal fact-finding we would do on any story.”

At an afternoon editorial meeting Monday, Clemente urged the staff to first get the facts and obtain comment from Sherrod before going on air, according to internal notes from the meeting that were provided to The Times. “Let’s make sure we do this right,” he said.

Sherrod ended up resigning Monday afternoon, hours before O’Reilly broke the story on his show. The first reported piece on Fox News, by correspondent James Rosen, aired on Tuesday morning, and included a second video clip that added context to Sherrod’s comments.

But Fox’s commentators showed less restraint. O’Reilly continued to condemn Sherrod’s comments on his show Tuesday night, saying she made a mistake, even after it had emerged that her words had been misrepresented.

On Wednesday, the host said that he “did not analyze the entire transcript, and that was not fair.” Still, O’Reilly called her a "longtime liberal activist" and said the language Sherrod used suggested that she “very well may see things through a racial prism." He said she belonged in the private sector, not working for the government.

-- Matea Gold


Comments () | Archives (53)

Shirley Sherrod has seen tough times before, maybe tougher than these. A woman of such character, integrity and tenacity will prevail in the end.

Well, this is a first. I have to say I have more respect for Mr O'Reilly, Beck for apologizing and condemning the fear divide mongers of Fox vs Megyn Kelly and Andrew Breitbart.

Both Megyn Kelly and Andew Breibart need to be released from their so called posts, blogs shut down for all violations, and criminally prosecuted for slander and affecting the welfare of an individual's life.

The leaders at the top of the TParty denial food chain, like Palin and Bachmann should also be held accountable for lack of response or acknowledgement, if not complete denial (Its called "lying"). The buck ultimately stops with them, and disassociation or "we haven't any leadership, we're a grassroots organization" is a worn out excuse. I have no respect for any Tparty leader.

Atleast the USDA, NAACP, and Administration publicly apologized and attempted amends. That's more than I can say for Palin, Breitbart, Bachmann and company.

Its funny O reilly comes up on the LA Times when he apologizes. Only a negative article about him would show up here. Matea Gold... Why didnt you write an article on here about the New Black Panther Party?

I have been a lifelong Republican and fan of Bill O’Riely show, but after his comments about Ms. Sherrod without first investigating the video just show’s his lack of journalist integrity. And then to try and hide from his blunder by casting blame on the White House for the same quick reaction he made further taints his credibility. This is one fan that will never watch his show again and will speak to others about my decision.

"On Wednesday, (O'Reilly) said that he 'did not analyze the entire transcript, and that was not fair.'” Not fair? What about "stupid," sir?

BIG LOL at Mr. O'Reilly and all the other "news" networks who broke the story -- I mean, the farce. Oh, I mean, comedy of errors.

This is why I say, as I have for decades, that today's news media outlets are a joke. It's not "jounalism" anymore. It is "entertainment TV." These "talk show journalists" and commentators are a joke.

Bill, you may not have had the whole story, but you weren't wrong. I've read the whole transcript, and I believe this woman is a racist and a socialist. The even-scarier parts of the speech were the phrases where she says she 'learned' that the real struggle was between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.'

See how Fox News lies through its teeth every day. Watch 'OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism':


O'Reilly had no qualms about villifying her on national TV--a simple apology under fire isn't good enough....

OMG. I hate Bill O'Reilly, but I'm starting to respect him. He bucked the trend and praised President Obama for getting the $20B from BP. Now this. Could he be becoming a -- journalist?

Maybe if Fox didn't put so much poorly-researched, biased content on the air, they wouldn't have to backtrack like this. I have no doubt their news team's editorial meeting notes say what you say they do. But it's kind of pathetic that they needed to provide them, because their credibility as a news organization is so bad. (There are a few exceptions, but they pretend Megyn Kelly's show is straight news and fair and balanced? Come on.)

Bill O'Reily always seems to place his foot in his mouth. His motto should be if it's Democrat something's wrong. Myself I prefer MSNBC and even though their slanted towards the left overall they're " fair and balanced...

O'Reilly is just a complete loser.

This time he lied and got caught, and so he apologized. For all the scores of times he lied and didn't get called on it, he's never apologized.

Self-aggrandizing loser.

For all the blame Fox is getting from leftwing idealogues it should be remembered that the Obama adminsitration fired Sherrod before Fox ever aired the video. Read the article above ("By the time his taped show aired, she in fact had already resigned, a fact Fox News noted on the screen"). Repeat: She resigned/was fired before Fox and O'Reilly first aired the tape. Once the administration threw Sherrod under the bus the story became big news.

Funny how Sherrod was told she had to resign because she was "going to be on Glenn Beck." I think right there you have a clue as to how all this happened and why the NAACP says it was "snookered by Fox." They and the administration fell for it hook line and sinker. It's scary to realize people so easily fooled are running the country. Very scary.

Here are the latest quotes from Andrew Breitbart: ———————————————- "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things. And I just did what I do best. Look what I did to this city with a few accusations and a couple of poorly edited videos. Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair! When I say to someone like Shirley Sherrod, that it was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth.”

It can only be because he thinks she might have a valid libel case.

How Fox even call themselves a news network is beyond me. They are nothing more than a propaganda machine for the right. I feel sorry for all the the sheeple that watch them and think it's news. Sad. That being said, our administration did worse by not checking the facts first.

I hate fox news. They lie so much.

"But Fox’s commentators showed less restraint."

The author uses the plural "commentators", but then uses only one example to prove the point.

Who are the others that "showed less restraint"?

The Breitbart clip did indeed have enough about her reconciliation message to alert anyone interested in the facts. his point was the reaction of the audience. LAT perpetuates racism by buying inot the rat party line.

Beck didn't apologize, as he didn't talk about Sherrod on Monday, and by the time he did talk about her during Tuesday's 5PM show, it was to note that her comments had appeared to be taken out of context, and that context matters.

He may have said that he was sorry for what happened to her, but if he did, it wasn't for anything he had said about her, for he had said nothing on Monday.

Regarding O'Reilly's apology for his comments on Monday -- taped before it was learned she had resigned, but aired after -- his call for her to resign was no different than that made by the NAACP and Sec. Vilsack, except for the fact that at that time, the NAACP had exclusive access to the complete tape, and only Sec. Vilsack actually had the power to ask for her resignation (or fire her).

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