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Jumping to Conclusions

Was Fox News's coverage of the Sherrod fiasco fair and balanced?

12:00 PM, Jul 22, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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For Shirley Sherrod, the moment of retribution has arrived. Not only has she focused her guns on the vast right-wing conspiracy, but she has also singled out Fox News as leading the charge. Why? As the former Ag employee told Media Matters, the network would "love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person." Perhaps Sherrod has access to secret emails between Fox execs outlining this long-term strategy. Or perhaps she is ... jumping to conclusions?

As Howard Kurtz reports in this morning's Washington Post:

But for all the chatter—some of it from Sherrod herself—that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an email directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente 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."

Kurtz goes on to observe:

Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say "do it, because you're going to be on 'Glenn Beck' tonight." And for all the focus on Fox, much of the mainstream media ran with a fragmentary story that painted an obscure 62-year-old Georgian as an unrepentant racist.... Ironically, Beck defended Sherrod on Tuesday, saying that "context matters" and he would have objected if someone had shown a video of him at an AA meeting saying he used to pass out from drinking but omitting the part where he says he found Jesus and gave up alcohol.

So you've got members of the media who jumped to conclusions, leading to Secretary Vilsack and the White House reacting rashly, and Sherrod, among others, making hasty judgments about a network's coverage of the whole mess. Have we all forgotten that age-old advice about jumping to conclusions? It's a bad thing. Even as a floormat.

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