Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean accused Fox News of promoting racism, including in the recent fracas over the Obama administration’s forced resignation of Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod.
“Let’s just be blunt about this … I think Fox News did something that was absolutely racist,” Dean charged on “Fox News Sunday.”
The fervor was built around a video of Sherrod speaking at an event hosted by the NAACP shown online by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
But the video showed her comments without the surrounding context, and the accusations of racial discrimination against Sherrod proved unfounded. President Obama subsequently apologized to Sherrod on Thursday, and the administration has offered to reinstate her as USDA’s director of rural development in Georgia.
Obama said Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas J. VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE “jumped the gun” in dismissing Sherrod. The NAACP — which initially applauded the move to ouster Sherrod — also apologized. “You’re seeing a calamity of errors here,” Rev. Jesse Jackson said later on “Fox News Sunday.”
But Dean emphasized it was Fox News that helped apply the pressure.
“Fox News was not blameless during this,” Dean said. “You played it up.”
But host Chris Wallace shot back, “I know facts are inconvenient things, but let’s deal with the facts.” They include that Fox News did not play the clip or mention her name before the Obama administration forced Sherrod on Monday to step down, he said.
Dean said the clip was about to run on Glenn Beck’s program on Fox, “which is what the administration was afraid of.”
“I think we need to stop being afraid of Glenn Beck and the racist fringe of the Republican Party,” Dean said, emphasizing he was not accusing Wallace himself of racism.
Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who appeared in the same Fox News Sunday segment — retorted, “If the Obama administration is this afraid of Glenn Beck, how do they deal with the Iranians?”
“There may be some similarities, Newt,” Dean quipped.
Jackson also said social media pressure was partly to blame for the administration’s quick decision to ouster Sherrod.
“The idea of an avalanche of news media accusing them of being racist is offensive and politically threatening,” Jackson said. When the news story broke about the Breitbart video clip, “It frightened the White House,” Jackson said. “They didn’t want to be accused of being racist and of course they ignored due process [and] were wrong in overreacting.”
But what Breitbart did “was morally wrong,” Jackson said.
There is a new “social media culture” that causes a “fear factor,” Jackson said.
UPDATED 4:37 p.m. Monday: Fox Senior Vice President of News Michael Clemente criticized Dean for reflexively blaming Fox and took a shot at him for his 2004 loss in the Democratic primary. "As we said this past week, some people such as the failed candidate Dean reflexively blame Fox for almost anything."