Parsing Sherrod on CNN with Rick Sanchez: Will media (and government) learn any lessons?
As somebody who has thrown something at the TV many times when a boneheaded analyst surfaces on a cable news channel, I'm happy to try a different tack on talking big issues when a show calls me for analysis.
That's what happened Thursday, when CNN's Rick Sanchez had me on to talk about the Shirley Sherrod case, and I tried hard to turn our segment into a wider discussion of how conservative media activists like Andrew Breitbart get questionable stories lodged in the mix of mainstream news outlets, including Fox News Channel.
Sanchez also brought up another troubling trend; Fox News' attempt to mainstream stories about scary black people doing wrong, from Van Jones and ACORN to the New Black Panther Party and Sherrod.
It's an old strategy I've written about before, aimed at galvanizing viewers with fears of criminality by people of color and reverse racism implemented through a government led by a black president. In the same way Republican candidates long ago courted votes with the spectre of black criminals -- Ronald Reagan's welfare queen stories and George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ad stand as stark examples -- Breitbart, Glenn Beck and Megyn Kelly seem to be courting audiences by harping on cases of scary black people doing frightening things.
I think all of these stories have been exagerrated beyond fair proportions. And now that Breitbart has clearly claimed a race-based story said the exact opposite of what happened, mainstream media is once again stuck asking belated questions about how his incendiary charges migrate into mainstream news coverage.
For all who care: I'm scheduled to be on Howie Kurtz's CNN media show Reliable Sources Sunday to talk about diversity in media (not Sherrod, as far as I know). It will be an interesting discussion, airing one day before I head to Los Angeles for nine days at the TV Critics Association's Summer Press Tour to talk with TV executives, producers and actors about the fall TV season.
I'm also appearing tonight on Rob Lorei's area PBS show devoted to the state's political issues, Florida This Week, for a welcome break from race and media issues to talk about the aborted session on oil drilling and the vacation home purchased by Hillsborough commissioner Jim Norman's wife.
Here's a clip of my appearance on Sanchez's show -- which is missing the moment at the end, where I point out that CNN has an obvious interest in presenting a segment criticizing competitor Fox and liberal-friendly media outlets such as MSNBC have also been criticized for their political leanings.