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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)

"resigning Monday afternoon, hours before O’Reilly broke the story on his show" ...Oops.
But Gibbs still blamed Fox for her resignation.
Did ya forget to mention that this poor victum had previously sued the "gubment" and got 10 million dollars for her group and $300,000 for herself...oops.

Oh for heaven sake, Sherrod's story of reconciliation was not well received at the NAACP.

From the beginning the clip was about the NAACP reaction not Sherrod.

The fact that the media, White House and the NAACP made the story about Sherrod speaks volumes. Sometimes, they can't see the forest for the trees.

Apologize for what exactly? The woman is a massive racist preaching to even bigger racists in the audience. Watch her whole 42 minute speech, the entire thing is littered with racism and class warfare.

For those blaming Breitbart, maybe you should go read the article that accompanied the original two videos. He played everything correctly, even pointing out Sherrod's story was not as it seemed.

But its so much easier to contact your journolist buddies and get your talking points from them rather than go read what Breitbart actually said about the videos when he posted them. Yeah, no biggie....dont be actual reporters when it so much easier to blame fox news and Andrew Breitbart.

John James,

btw, nobody believes that you are a life-long republican and fan of BOR.

To all the people here piling up on Fox and O'Reilly...perhaps you should re-read the article slowly.
The lady resigned several hours BEFORE O'Reilly reported the story. In the real world, this represents an admission of guilt, which is why it made sense for O'Reilly to report it based on the incomplete speech he had watched.
One has to question why the lady resigned if she didn't think she did anything wrong. Could it be because she knew that the second half of the speech where she talks about refering the white farmer to "one of his own" makes it official that she is a racist and a bigot?
Just saying...

I don't understand. Why did Ms. Sherrod resign if the allegation was untrue, or wholly misconstrued? A liberal appointee in a liberal administration, supported by a predominantly-liberal media......where's the pressure? It makes no sense at all.

Actually it was the White House firing of her that gave credibility to the story. Fox, CNN, etc. didn't report on it until then. It was the fear of Fox and Glenn Beck that made the White House jump the gun. Not any actual reporting from them on this story. And yet for all their fear, it was Glenn Beck who was one of the first to claim we needed to wait for all the facts before jumping on this. The question is, why is the Whitehouse only afraid of one media outlet? Shouldn't the media "watchdogs" as a whole cause the Whitehouse a certain amount of heartburn? Why are they worried about Fox and not everyone else in the media? Oh right, JournaList.

So the first news report by Fox was Tuesday morning? Fox News didn't report on the story at all until its primetime shows all did brief pieces on it Monday night. O'Reilly did about 30 seconds on his Reality Check segment.

And yet all of the MSM continues to spew the lie that Fox played the video over and over and helped get her fired! Why am I not surprised. An email even went out to all Fox new staff personnel which said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right." I wonder if the MSM will be as quick to report this? I won't hold my breath.

To those commenters calling Ms. Sherrod a socialist and racist, please do your research on her history, as well as that of her husband, Charles, a well-respected civil rights leader. While you're at it, please stop spouting right-wing junk!

Not so fast, there, buddy.
Whether Ms. Sherrod is a "racist" is a question I will leave up to those who think the term has a precise meaning.

What she most assuredly is is a race-hustling shakedown artist. You can look it up. Google Sherrod Pigford.

Hey FedUP... Where's the NAACP condemn those fine citizens the New Black Panthers??? Guess your not so fed up with that are you? Freaking unbelievable..

Megan Kelly had Sherrod on her show to explain herself and she did. She had full exposure on Fox to explain what happened and how the White House harrassed her into resigning.

Anyone remember what they did to Dan Rather when he reported first and asked questions later?? He was forced to resign. In this era of pseudo-jornalism and news-every-second, we need to examine the "truth" even harder. What Fox News, the USDA, Brietbart, and most of the media did this week should be examined and taught in the "Don't" section of Journalism classes everywhere. O'Reilly is a pompous wannabe. I watched Fox after everyone was realizing their mistake, and O'Reilly was still race-baiting this whole situation and calling for pitchforks and fire. Sheesh.

First of all, Obama's Adminstration and the NAACP condemned Sherrod BEFORE O'Reilly aired and any of the story being heard on Fox.
O'Reilly just didn't go it alone, the Whitehouse and Sherrod's own group, the NAACP took a harsh stance against her....that is why the story was important.
Breitbart's first posted video did in fact have Sherrod's pivet in her story at the end.
It was clear she was speaking of how she realized it was about being poor not white or black.
It was the NAACP and the Whitehouse that overreacted to the video, even though the NAACP OWNS and has the entire video of the speech Sherrod gave.
Hannity reported that Sherrod resigned because of the video.
Glenn Beck never even mentioned the story until the following day when he stood up AGAINST her firing and did most of his show on how Sherrod was taken out of context.
He did this even though Sherrod spent much of day attacking Beck for something he didn't do.
The real story is about how Obama fired a black women without getting the facts first, how they now lie and say they didn't have any input...Sherrod says she was told three times the Whitehouse wanted her to resign.
The second part of this is that Sherrod did in fact lambast Republicans while on the job at the USDA, in violation of the Hatch Act.
The third part is that she and her husband were in the middle of the Fannie Mae style forcing of USDA loans to people who didn't qualify for the loans, in the name of racial equality.
Over a billion dollars of tax payer money has gone to pay "discrimination" claims for over 20,000 black farmers even though their was but 18,000 black farmers in America.

[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.]

The tape wasn't edited. It was an excerpt. And the tape didn't make her "appear" racist...her description of discriminating against a white farmer due to this race made her appear 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.]

Sherrod didn't "appear" to say that she discriminated against a white farmer...she DID say that she discriminated against a white farmer. And no amount of epiphanies or apologies or forgiveness from the farmer erases the FACT that she discriminated against a white farmer based on his race.

Megan Kelly did not report on this Sherrod vidoe, like Fed Up below claims.
Neither has Bachmann or Palin.
Seems FedUp is fed up with woman in general, not claims of racism or poor journalism.
Megan Kelly IS right about the New Black Panther case, Obama's Admin took a case that had already been won and chucked it and did so merely because theydidn't want to litigate against someone black.
The facts of the case are on video and show the New Black Panthers guilt as does the 3 statments from the victims at the polling place, one of which is black himself.

As a aside, Shirley Sherrod was abused by the Obama Admin for sure, but she's no hero. She should never have been appointed by the Obama Admin in the first place. She has been partisan while on duty working for the American people in violation of the Hatch Act. She DID admit to discriminating against someone because of their race, she even called the white lawyer "one of his own" a discription she holds today, not in the past.

Should they have verified the footage before airing it...ABSOLUTELY!!!
HOWEVER, for those who are hand wringing about the damage that Fox did, let's make sure the fact is abundantly clear, THIS WOMEN HAD ALREADY BEEN FIRED BEFORE THOSE SHOWS EVEN AIRED!!! FoxNews coverage did not get this woman fired.
If you wanna be pissy with someone, be pissy with the people who threw this woman under the bus without having referenced the full context of her remarks, and had the complete lack of class to do it over a cell phone conversation(Vilsack, NAACP, and the White House).
Outside of that, YES, this woman is, like most seem to be at the LAT, a far left kook, who will not be happy until there are no more "haves and have nots". She is a socialist. Not until the govt runs all business, and everyone gets a $50K/yr salary, we all drive the same cars, and live in the same houses, becasue god forbid someone have something that someone else doesn't have.

Clemente said. “We did the normal fact-finding we would do on any story.”

Therein lies the problem with listening to Faux News.

It was a back handed apology from Bill O'Reilly. He apologized and then went on to attack her.
Fox News is still shrinking from the role it played by posting the Breitbart blog on its web site. It went on the attack and didn't stop until CNN put some day light on the subject. Fox News was after Obama via Sherrod & NAACP.
Fox News - Acorn, Van Jones, Black Panthers, Sherrod: all black & all non stories gined up by Rupert Murdoch. And their most covered topic, immigration- Hispanics.

Well, the apology was a start in the right direction, but FOX still has a long way in cleaning up their act. They have long sensationalized the news rather than giving it straight.

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