In 1991, Barack Obama, then a student at Harvard, stepped into the fray of a major on-campus debate. Obama publicly supported a professor named Derrick Bell, who was at the center of a fight over diversity and the denial of tenure to a black female professor. Bell, however, was a controversial figure for spearheading an academic discipline called Critical Race Theory, which read issues of race and power into a legal context. This video became a major issue in recent weeks, as Andrew Breitbart, who died last week, planned to release this video as evidence of a major gotcha on Obama. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum … Buzzfeed beat them to their own scoop. A roundup of what happened:
- Breitbart Before Andrew Breitbart died last week, the conservative figure said he had something big from Obama’s Harvard days, and was about to release it when he died.
- Buzzfeed However, the upstart political wing of Buzzfeed got there first, licensing the 1991 video from a Boston television station and posting hours before Breitbart’s folks could.
- PBS But it appears that in the end, PBS beat both sites by a full four years, covering it in “The Choice 2008,” a Frontline special. Some scoop Breitbart got. source
» Allegations of selective editing … overruled: Breitbart’s folks claimed that the clip acquired by Andrew Kaczynski was selectively edited, and that their clip offered details that his didn’t. However, the PBS clip, posted hours later, appears to show the exact same scene, validating Kaczynski’s find. Now, Breitbart’s John Nolte has gone from attacking the veracity of BuzzFeed’s video to attacking editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Kaczynski says that, whatever the case, he was looking for this video long before Breitbart announced his find, totally punching holes in the whole thing. But here’s the thing that really kills it: You could watch this video and not even know it was controversial. (We watched it and saw a guy who looked like he was going to be president 20 years ago.) Perhaps a fitting end for Breitbart, a man whose journalistic legacy was at times flawed.