My feeling about the entire Shirley Sherrod affair has been pretty straightforward: everybody came away looking bad. The Obama administration and the Agriculture Department, which initially forced her resignation without knowing all the facts; the NAACP, which after its dispute with the Tea Party needed to show that racism from anyone is unacceptable and thus threw Sherrod under the bus; and the media, some of which ran a doctored video of Sherrod's speech before an NAACP gathering in Georgia without verifying the accuracy of the tape.
Some will argue that the most discredited of all was Andrew Breitbart, the conservative activist who put the Sherrod video up on his Web site. Breitbart has been a favorite on the right for his antics, be it humiliating ACORN or getting Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) to go ballistic on camera. But the revelation that the Sherrod tape was heavily doctored led many to question whether Breitbart has been similarly doctoring the truth.
Apparently not everyone feels Breitbart is damaged goods. Talking Points Memo this week revealed that Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele has invited him as the featured speaker at a GOP fundraiser in Beverly Hills next month. TPM says Steele and Breitbart "are scheduled to co-headline a welcome reception" on Aug. 12, the event's first day. (Here is the invitation to the event, secured by TPM.)
Ryan Witt, writing in the Political Buzz blog for the Examiner, sums up the conflict for the GOP:
Republicans are now in a difficult position with Breitbart. A number of conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, still support Breitbart, and if Republicans publicly distance themselves from Breitbart it could draw a backlash. On the other hand, associating closely with the man many blame for the Sherrod mess could have its own costs.
The liberal Daily Kos Web site is less charitable:
The RNC's decision to hold an event with Breitbart in the wake of his attempted smear of Shirley Sherrod reminds of of something Michael Steele said earlier this year:
“We have lost sight of the historic, integral link between the party and African-Americans,” Steele said. ... [But] for the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South.”
At the time, Steele was trying to argue that the GOP needed to move past its race-baiting Southern Strategy. Just a few months later, it's clear that Steele's argument fell on deaf ears. Race-baiting is alive and well in the GOP. In fact, it's retaken center stage.
Meanwhile, Sherrod, the former Ag Dept. employee, said today she plans to file a lawsuit against Breitbart. The Daily Beast Web site opined that "she'll have a pretty good case." But Brent Bozell, the president of the conservative Media Research Center, pooh-poohed Sherrod's action:
Andrew Breitbart is going to be fine. He's done nothing wrong. I wonder if Ms. Sherrod, who is such a champion of transparency, will publicly disclose who is putting her up to this. And I also hope this champion of honesty will stop lying about Fox News. I'm also waiting for Ms. Sherrod to publicly apologize for accusing anyone opposed to nationalized healthcare of being racist. Last time I checked, that was more than half the country.
UPDATE (6:20 p.m.): Sam Stein, blogging in the Huffington Post, wonders if Sherrod, in her lawsuit against Breitbart, "may end up being harmed by the quick recuperation, even enhancement, of her reputation following the scandal":
In a twist of irony, Breitbart's embarrassment may end up serving to his legal advantage. For Sherrod's suit to be successful, a number of different legal criteria must be met. That criteria changes depending on whether the court rules that she was or was not a public official. But assuming she was, Sherrod must show in part that she has been damaged or harmed by the episode. And the mere fact that she is now held in such high regard, owing to the sympathy generated by her treatment, could end up complicating her case.