CNN Anchor Now Says He Was Wrong to Let Shirley Sherrod's Smear Go Unchallenged

On Thursday's Anderson Cooper 360, anchor Anderson Cooper faulted himself for not pressing Shirley Sherrod when she appeared on the show back on July 22 and claimed that conservative Andrew Breitbart was a "vicious" racist who "would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery."

Cooper now says he should have challenged Sherrod to support such an inflammatory charge with facts: "I believe in admitting my mistakes....I didn't challenge her that night and I should have."

The July 22 interview was one of numerous appearances Sherrod made on CNN after she was fired by the Department of Agriculture on July 19. Cooper asked Sherrod about her phone conversation that day with President Obama, and then about Breitbart. Here's the transcript of that section of the interview, followed by Cooper apology from July 29:

From CNN's Anderson Cooper, July 22:

ANDERSON COOPER: I want to ask you about the - the man who first posted this edited clip of you, Andrew Breitbart. He said today - and I'm quoting him - he said - quote - "If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod's entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white." Do you think you have gotten past black vs. white?

SHIRLEY SHERROD: I know I have gotten past black vs. white. He's probably the person who has never gotten past it and never attempted to get past it. So, he can't see - because he has never tried and because he hasn't, he can't see what I have done to get past it. And he's not interested in what I have done to get past it. I don't think he's interested in seeing anyone get past it, because I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he would like to see all black people end up again. And that's why...

COOPER: You think - you think he's racist?

SHERROD: ... I think he's so vicious. Yes, I do. And I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president, you know.
He would go after me. I don't think it was even the NAACP he was totally after. I think he was after a black president.

COOPER: So, when he says this wasn't about you, that this was just about the NAACP and what he says is their racist - or their bias, you say you don't buy that?

SHERROD: I don't buy it at all. What has he done to - to promote unity among the races? Tell me. Let me - tell him to come forward and tell us what he has done. I haven't seen him do anything but try to divide us, you know. Where does he think this will take us? What - what does he think this will accomplish - accomplish? I would like to hear him answer that. I would like him to show me how he's not a racist.

Here's what Cooper had to say about that exchange on July 29:

COOPER: I interviewed Shirley Sherrod last Thursday. And in the course of that interview, I failed to do something that I should have. I believe in admitting my mistakes. I looked at the interview again today, and Ms. Sherrod said during that interview that she thought Mr. Breitbart was a racist. She said, quote, "I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery." She went on to say she believed his opposition to President Obama was based on racism. Now, she, of course, is free to believe whatever she wants, but I didn't challenge her that night and I should have.

I don't want anyone on my show to get away with saying things which cannot be supported by facts. I should have challenged her on what facts she believes supports that accusation. That's my job, and I didn't do it very well in that interview, and I'm sorry about it. If I get a chance to talk to her again, I will.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.