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Framing Andrew Breitbart

Let’s face it. LA’s resident conservative agitator Andrew Breitbart isn’t going away. His involvement in the Shirley Sherrod flap threatened to put him out to the woodshed of the public consciousness. But now, thanks largely to his protege James O’Keefe‘s NPR sting, Breitbart is back on Bill Maher and at the LAT Festival of Books and even written up by the Times itself. Breitbart has even inexplicably reemerged as one of the left-wing media’s go-to conservative pundits–much to the incredulity of the liberal blogosphere. Several weeks ago Huffington Post decided to give Breitbart a front page blog on its site. About a week after putting him up there, under intense online liberal pressure, HuffPo eventually found an excuse to take Breitbart off the front page.

Breitbart even found his way to MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan show last week–where the typically ornery liberal Ratigan went out of his way to call Breitbart a “sharp shooter who gets results.” That didn’t sit well with Color of Change activist and Firedoglake blogger James Rucker–who felt Ratigan was bending over backwards to help restore Breitbart’s undeserved credibility.

Rucker interviewed Ratigan about Breitbart’s appearance.

When I spoke with Ratigan, he explained what he was trying to do. He quickly agreed that Breitbart was a race-baiter, dishonest, and undeserving of credibility — without question. And he frankly hadn’t thought about the legitimizing effect that having Breitbart on his show — without clearly labeling him as the race-baiter and deceiver he is — would have.

Ratigan’s core issue is exposing the corruptive nature of corporate dollars in politics (which I, and many ColorOfChange members would agree is a critical and important endeavor). Ratigan’s goal in interviewing Breitbart was to ask him why he chose targets like Sherrod or the NAACP, while Breitbart and the Tea Party activists he defends seems to agree that banks and corporations with undue influence over government are actually the ones destroying our country. It’s an important criticism of Breitbart. Ratigan’s goal was to keep the conversation there, and he believed that if he focused on Breitbart’s penchant for race-baiting and deception, it would simply trigger Breitbart, and he’d end up in the same conversation others have where Breitbart goes on a rampage and the cconversation goes nowhere.

Moving forward, Ratigan said that if he deals with Breitbart at all in the future, it will be with the explicit disclaimer that Breibart is someone who deceives and race-baits. Ratigan recognizes and respects the argument that there’s a problem with giving Breitbart a mainstream platform, and he’s committed to making sure that his show is not used to lend Breitbart the appearance of legitimacy and credibility.

Too little too late. Thanks to uncritical framing like Ratigan’s, Breitbart’s tentacles are once again swimming smoothly through the media ocean.

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