Friday, May 27, 2011

Difference Between Media Matters and Stranahan? Media Matters Backs Up Claims

Breitbart coffee-fetcher Lee Stranahan wrote a response to my post debunking his claim that he exposed Glenn Beck lying about his role in the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. Stranahan writes the following:
But here’s the real irony of these idiot “liberals” saying how bad this story makes me look – Eric Boehlert’s employer Media Matters reached exactly the same conclusion I did with LESS research than I included in my post; they put in one short clip, I included 3 from the radio show and 4+ from Beck on TV. And Media Matters for America also used it as an example of Beck making ‘false claims’ in a second post, too. So apparently MMfA is working for Andrew Breitbart now.
What Stranahan doesn't realize, however, is that Media Matters, unlike him, actually found a false statement from Beck to back up their claim that Beck made a false statement.

Recall that Beck spent the beginning of his radio program going along with Breitbart's false narrative of Sherrod being a "racist," but then at the end of the program Beck's co-hosts played Sherrod's statement and said that it looked like it was "taken out of context." Stranahan claimed that this showed that Beck had been lying about his role in the story. However, this is the quote Stranahan used to back up his claim that Beck was lying:
Shirley Sherrod, is the next example. We didn’t rush to condemn her. This is another seemingly “redistribution of wealth” woman — who I would bet that I vehemently disagree with on probably everything. But she asked for the rest of the tape to be heard, the farmers in the story backed her up. It was a turning point story. We defended her and said her side of the story demanded to be heard — because context matters…
This quote, however, is not false. Beck's claim that "we defended her" is true because they did defend Sherrod at the end of the radio program. The other quote Stranahan claims is a "lie" is Beck saying he was "sitting in his office" and decided that there was "something wrong with the story" and therefore decided not to "do" the Sherrod story. First, it's not clear what point Beck was talking about: was he referring to his TV show on Monday, where he did not talk about the story even though it had been up since 11:30 AM that morning? Was he talking about his TV show on Tuesday, when questions had been raised about the veracity of Breitbart's smear tapes but the full tapes had not yet been released? If either of those were what he was referring to, then Stranahan has no proof that he was "lying." And since it's impossible to look into people's minds, he never will have proof that those claims from Beck were lies.

On the other hand, Media Matters actually did locate a false claim from Beck. First, the post Stranahan pastes on his blog post does not claim Beck was lying; it merely points out that Beck did play Breitbart's heavily edited Sherrod clip on his radio show. However, the different post that Stranahan uses to point out that Media Matters said that Beck made "false claims" about the story actually uses a different quote from any of those that Stranahan uses. That post includes the following quote from Beck's radio program:
Instead, the outlets say -- I'm the one jumping to conclusions. I'm the one smearing and lying. Oh, man! You know, last night, they were talking about how I damaged this woman. And I hurt her career. I'm sorry. I think the only time I talked about her, I supported her. That's weird. That is weird.
Since Beck included the hedge words "I think," the bolded text isn't strictly false, but for practical purposes it's false enough since Beck did not support Sherrod at the beginning of his radio program. So Media Matters, unlike Stranahan, correctly identified a clear example of a "false claim," from Beck about the story.

So it turns out that Beck did make a false claim about his role in the story. As you might imagine, I'm not overly upset about this revelation. However, Stranahan accused Beck of "lying" on this issue before he was even able to actually identify an example. So Media Matters still engaged in responsible coverage, and Stranahan did not. And of course all of this is really a distraction from the main point that Breitbart pushed deceptively edited video to try to portray Shirley Sherrod as racist. All of Stranahan's clumsy jumping jacks are really nothing more than a lame attempt to attract attention away from Breitbart's credibility-destroying role in smearing an innocent woman.

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