Response To Breitbart, Retracto Over N-Word Video Claim


Last week, I posted a response to Andrew Breitbart’s claim that he had proven, with the help of the New York Times, that nothing “racially charged” happened on March 20, 2010, when several black members of Congress claimed that they heard racial epithets directed at them by a crowd of protesters. He challenged the MSM to “air the exculpatory evidence” that he had posted, which I did.

Since then, some of the writers from Breitbart’s “Big” sites have responded to my response, and in doing so, have walked back on Breitbart’s original claim. They have demanded corrections to my piece. I am always happy to correct the record where necessary.

It is important to note that my article was not intended to prove anything more than that Breitbart’s “exculpatory evidence” doesn’t prove anything, and that news outlets were justified in reporting the story in the first place. Andrew Breitbart asked for an airing of his video, and that’s what Mediaite gave him.

Big Government was first to respond with an article by Larry O’Connor. That piece was followed shortly by another from the anonymous alpaca Retracto. Both insisted that there are not 3 witnesses, but only one. Both O’Connor and my old pal, Retracto, insist that Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) has “never gone on record saying he heard the n-word used at this event.”

Except he did, here:

Asked if racial epithets were yelled at him, Lewis responded, “Yes, but it’s OK. I’ve heard this before in the ’60s. A lot of this is just downright hate.”

And here:

For his part, Lewis dismisses the aspersions on his character as “more attempts to demonize” those who disagree with the tea partiers and their supporters. And he stands by his story that the N-word was used several times.

There may be others, but since I linked to both of these in my original post, they should suffice. Sounds like a case of “Retracto, heal thyself.”

Of course, Rep. Andre Carson has gone on record, as has Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, each stating that they heard the n-word that day. Therefore, as originally reported, there are 3 credible witnesses who corroborate the use of the n-word that day. Again, this is more than sufficient reason for news outlets to have reported the incident, especially in context with a slur that was shouted at Rep. Barney Frank (which was caught on camera).

Retracto also feels owed a correction over the assertion that Breitbart accused Lewis of lying:

Breitbart did not accuse John Lewis of lying in his Big Journalism post; in fact, the only reference to Lewis at all comes by way of a quote from the New York Times correction.

He’s parsing, because Breitbart clearly says he has “shown conclusively” that nothing “racially charged” occurred on those steps, which would make Lewis a liar. Of course, parsing goes both ways. Show us the quote in my article which says that Breitbart directly accused Lewis of lying:

Earlier this week, conservative media figure Andrew Breitbart seized upon a New York Times story correction as proof that Civil Rights hero John Lewis (D-Ga) and others were “lying” when they claimed that a crowd of protesters had hurled the “n-word” at them as they walked to the Capitol to vote on health care reform.

Perhaps Breitbart has realized that naming Lewis is horrible PR, but the fact remains that, technicalities aside, Breitbart’s websites have been calling Lewis and his colleagues liars for months.

Retracto references the criticism that the clips in the video that Breitbart presented are very short, and of poor quality:

The video footage Christopher grabbed from to make his video comes from the latest in a series of videos that have appeared on Big Government.  The implication that exculpatory video footage has been left on the cutting-room floor is wrong and is disproved by the complete footage, available herehere, and here.

In the story to which I was responding, however, Andrew Breitbart himself presented that amalgamated video as the “elephant in the room” that he challenges the mainstream media to air. Apparently, Retracto now views it as insufficient.

Breitbart, via Retracto, further backs away from his claims in response to my assertion that “Breitbart now presents several crudely-shot, 5 to 7 second video clips of poor audio quality as proof positive that nothing happened that day.”

This is a straw man argument, a misrepresentation of Breitbart and Larry O’Connor’s position.  The complete videos prove that the scene Carson and Cleaver described did not happen, rendering their testimony not credible.

Really? Is that all Breitbart said, that “the scene Carson and Cleaver described did not happen?”

Or did he say this: (emphasis mine)

It’s not enough because the Times continues to imply that something racially charged might happened on the steps of the Capitol, when we have shown conclusively, via multiple videos of the moment in question, that nothing of the sort occurred.

Nothing of the sort occurred.

There have been two changes made to my original post. First, Retracto points out:

With two corroborating witnesses, respected members of Congress — each of whom had little motivation to lie (as Breitbart himself pointed out)  — the optics were already pretty bad for the protesters. It would take one hell of a smoking gun to call them all liars.

It’s disingenuous for Christopher to suggest “Breitbart himself” agrees the Congressional Black Caucus members “had little motivation to lie.”  In fact, in the article Christopher uses to source this claim,  Breitbart is perfectly clear when he contends the CBC members lied to paint the Tea Party as racist in order to “stop it in its tracks,” thus yielding benefits for the Democratic Party

As originally written, the line read “With two corroborating witnesses, respected members of Congress, each of whom had little motivation to lie (as Breitbart himself pointed out, the optics were already pretty bad for the protesters).”

Somewhere along the editorial process, the punctuation was changed, which muddied the original meaning of the sentence. It has been changed to reflect the original wording.

Finally, both Retracto and O’Connor identify the man described as an “aide” in my video as Rep. John Shadegg. While it is tough to tell from the video, the post has been updated to reflect this.

O’Connor also asserts that Shadegg is giving the “thumbs down” sign, which appears to be correct, but which begs the same question: Why was Shadegg giving the thumbs down? O’Connor says it was to indicate “he (was) voting against ObamaCare,” but offers no proof of this. A source in Shadegg’s office says he has never spoken publicly about this incident, so how could O’Connor know that he was gesturing about the health care bill, and not, say, giving the thumbs down to racial slurs from the crowd?

We have been in contact with Congressman Shadegg’s office to see if he would like to lend his recollection of the incident, or to say whether he finds his colleagues’ account credible. We are awaiting a response.

The fact remains that Andrew Breitbart cannot tell me what was said by the people in that video, so he certainly can’t claim to know what they didn’t say.

It’s also important to note that it is Breitbart who has kept this story going. Republicans like Mike Pence, Michael Steele, and John Boehner reacted appropriately, and the three congressmen have not tried to exploit it.

Larry O’Connor has invited me to appear on his BlogTalkRadio show, and I’ve accepted. You can listen to us live at midnight on Thursday, when we’ll surely have a lot more to talk about.

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