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Need to Know, July 23, 2010

This week on Need to Know: putting the Shirley Sherrod saga in context. We talk to The Root’s Terence Samuel about how the media handles issues of race. Alison Stewart sits down with Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, author of “The War Lovers,” a book that draws parallels between the Spanish-American War and the war in Iraq. And Jon Meacham calls on Senator John Kerry to play the same role he played 40 years ago in the Vietnam era, by starting a debate over the war in Afghanistan.


We also bring you a special Blueprint America report from Atlanta, where correspondent John Larson visits the most dangerous highway in Georgia. Experts say we’re falling far short in making sure our roadways are safe for pedestrians. Then Need to Know travels to Wyoming, where a rare dispute has broken out between conservationists and renewable energy advocates over the sage grouse, a candidate for the endangered species list whose habitat has been threatened by wind farms. And resident satirist Andy Borowitz gazes into the future to ask: What would Sarah Palin be like as president? The answer isn’t pretty.

Watch the individual segments:
The Shirley Sherrod saga

Need to Know speaks with Terence Samuel, deputy editor of, to discuss the controversial resignation of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, and how the media handles issues of race.

“The War Lovers”

Alison Stewart speaks with Newsweek’s editor-at-large, Evan Thomas, about his book “The War Lovers,” which draws parallels between the Spanish-American War and the war in Iraq.

In perspective: Afghanistan as Vietnam

Jon Meacham calls upon Senator John Kerry to revisit a role he played 40 years ago, when Kerry took to the Senate floor to question the morality of the Vietnam War. Meacham revisits Kerry’s arguments and asks him to assess the war in Afghanistan.

Grousing at windmills

A rare dispute has broken out between conservationists and sustainability advocates in Wyoming, where the development of wind energy has endangered the fragile habitat of the sage grouse, a candidate for the endangered species list. Need to Know reports.

Crossing the line

In a Blueprint America special report, correspondent John Larson travels to Atlanta to report on the most dangerous highway for pedestrians in Georgia, Buford Highway. Roads like Buford can be found in nearly every state in the country, but Larson speaks with experts who say not enough is being done to make them safe.

Next weeks news: Palin edition

What would the former Alaska governor do as president? Need to Know’s resident satirist, Andy Borowitz, gazes into the future, all the way to the year 2012, to find out.

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A rare dispute between conservationists and renewable energy advocates has broken out in Wyoming, where wind energy development threatens the fragile habitat of the sage grouse.


  • Elihu D. Davison

    Meacham’s comments about conservatives vs. Sherrod were mostly on spot. But he missed the mark wildly when he said that Richard Hofstadter, author of The Paranoid Style of American Politics, taught at Harvard. Hofstadter taught at Columbia. 30 lashes with a wet noodle for Meacham, who inadvertently gives credence to right-wing neanderthals.

  • Dr Mike Fortuin

    Regarding Shirley Sherrod, please, enough already. Every news program has thrashed this to death.
    It seems that you are obligated to keep this dialogue going. STOP IT.

  • wayne johnson

    This weeks feature on this latest episode is about race and political power. The prior weeks NAACP resolution that challenged the Tea Party Movement to rid itself of the overt racist elements that have been associated with it from its inception. It doesn’t condemn the Tea Party movement. Which has been manipulated by powerful rightwing elements( freedom works). Fox was not the casual bystander in this but an active partner in a constant propaganda campaign for years. The attacks on ACORN and Van Jones among them. In all of there programs the facts and truth doesn’t matter. ACORN is no more despite the truth which was on their side. They continue to attack Ms Sherrod as of todays shows with the exception of Shepard Smith. Not discussed is the sorry history of the USDA against black and other poor farmers

  • James Orange

    Your comments on Palin are typical of ignorant, leftists’. Lashing out with childish chides about Palin speak? Is nothing beneath you guys? Your worried, and it shows…. you have no idea whats coming.
    You aid and abett, you slither and lie. Threatened, you lash out like the spoiled little people you are.
    I will vote for almost anyone who promises to cut off your government funding.
    Try a real job, make a payroll with profit, not handouts. Yes, the majority of you have no chance for survival in a fair fight, in full public view. Your the same folks who taught the president tranperancy.
    Congrats, your end is in sight.

  • dawn

    Even Phineas and Ferb, on Disney Channel, tells kids not to believe everything they see online.

  • gloriasb

    Is it possible that in your feature about Wyoming, wind turbines and sage grouse, you left out another faction in the discussion? You mention–in passing–that sage grouse are a major game bird in Wyoming. This fact leads me to wonder about what role the hunting and gun lobby plays in the discussion about “saving” the sage grouse. Wyoming wants to “save” the sage grouse so hunters can go out and kill them? I’d be curious to know if the governor received any campaign funding from the hunter/gun lobby. It’s hard to believe that the governor cares that much about saving a species for its own sake. Comments?

  • Judy

    The wind turbine story was interesting…….also interesting that North and South Dakota switched places on your map!

  • Shelley Lewis

    Judy—you had better eyes than we did this week. Giant oops on our part and apologies to the people of North and South Dakota.

  • rick

    if you had done your homework you would have realized sherrod was fired way before the video hit the air! the kids running the white house didn’t bother to verify the story but just reacted! her statements about”one of them” and “one of their kind” is racist period if a white man said that he would be crusified!! the teaparty are not racist period this is a way to push back the movement in this country to take our country back. in addition the naacp did not verify the story on sherrod and also jumped the gun my guess they called white house. lets get the facts straight!

  • John McNay

    An important omission in the sequence of events of the Shirley Sherrod incident undermined the value of the narrative which you presented. It is my understanding that multiple discussions were aired on FOX after appearance of the blog partial/biased videos, but before the reaction by the administration. These were lopsided condemnations of Ms. Sherrod’s “racism” on the basis of the selective content of the blog videos, without further investigation of the validity of those conclusions. This type of intense, negative, biased commentary is the basis of the hypersensitivity of the administration to issues of racism. Omitting this critical step in the sequence of events undermined the logic and content of the discussion on the program and side stepped the issue of media bias, in this case Fox antiadministration rhetoric.

  • Bret

    Friday, the 23rd of 2010. The “Need to know” program covering the Sage grouse vs wind energy in Wyoming on cable channel 114.1 at 11 p.m. I found that it was truly atrocious that the map graphics depicting the surrounding states, actually displayed South Dakota north of North Dakota! For those unaware of the economics of the northern-Midwest states…60 to 80% of the annual income is acquired during the summer and during hunting season (late September to mid November ). This is by the tourism trade, farming, and ranching (the food you eat if you’re vegan or omnivorous).

  • Stephen

    The “comedy” piece about Sarah Palin was not close to funny. The good news may be that Palin will win in 2012…The current administration needs to be voted out of office as soon as possible. Palin, Romney or Gingrich could easily do a much better job. “Air-heads” like Sen. Boxer need to be shown the door.

  • T Heller

    Congratulations to NTK, from a past snarky critic. For the first time, last night’s show didn’t contain anything I found outrageously objectionable (I must have missed the Dakota two-step). Yes, even Andy Borowitz’s Palinese was finally funny – tho’ I can’t say I enjoy the off-camera tittering and snickers.) Loved the ‘cohesive’ crack!

    I applaud the editorial by Meacham. And the windfarming v. grouse piece was intriguing. BUT…

    I wish you’d gone a bit further into the windfarming subject, in particular its economics. I am concerned that this ‘sustainable’ and ‘renewable’ energy source is being coddled by subsidies such that it won’t be sustainable nor renewable when the appropriations for those subsidies dry up.

    Further, the cost of transmitting windpower to distant urban areas is worthy of examination. It was only hinted at by your illustration that moving the windfarm 200 miles east would cost an additional $400 million (or $2 million a mile). If that is so, imagine the cost of moving the power almost a thousand miles or so to feed Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix! (I figure that works out to $2 billion.)

    And recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has begun granting the ability to pass the high transmission costs of windpower directly onto consumers through some Return on Equity (ROE) incentives to grid operators. But if the multi-billion cost of constructing these transmission lines for windpower is paid directly by 600,000 to 800,000 end consumers served -not by the generators or the grid operators- isn’t this the grant of yet another subsidy to this renewable energy source? (And just exactly how does directly charging consumers translate into return-on-equity ROE when there’s no *equity* from them in play/at risk?)

  • Jon Meacham

    Mr. Davison–Thanks much for the kind words. For the record, I did not say Professor Hofstadter taught at Harvard, but that his landmark piece on the “paranoid style” was published in Harper’s. Save the wet noodle for another occasion. I will no doubt give you reason to use it, but not this time.

  • Larry

    Your end segment on Palin speak was far below what PBS should be. I can hear all of this trash talk that I want on FOX and MSNBC. I don’t like Palin and am not defending her, I just want a trash talk free PBS.

  • Ayman Fadel

    i came to the web site to share the segment on Buford Highway in suburban Atlanta on my social networking sites and to look at the reports mentioned in the segment and the organization working in ATL on this problem. Would you put links to related resources with each segment?

  • Goran Tomic

    Senator John Kerry is exactly what is wrong with the US political system. While he started as an outright proponent of the destruction of middle east, today he is a calm and collected apologist for war, the kind that digs up every possible dovish excuse for why we rob, displace and murder millions while we transfer taxpayer money to rich private hands, and then concludes that it was a “mistake”.

    There was no mistake, not in the Spanish War, not in Vietnam and not in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Senator Kerry knows it. Whether for strategic reasons, land, resources, or just to send a message, our leaders send young men to war for their personal interest. The rest of the population is subjected to immense propaganda onslaught and our fiscal reserves are drained, transferring billions from public to private hands. There is no mistake here – these wars are purposeful murder and robbery in broad daylight.

    Of course, we can leave it to the new and “improved” PBS to try to crawl as far as possible up the politician’s rear end for the sake of access and give these charlatans (yes, that would be you, Senator Kerry) one more outlet for dissemination of their lies and propaganda. On the positive side, PBS finally made it clear that they intend to diverge completely from the years old tradition of Moyers Journal and NOW, which at least is open and unambiguous declaration of capitulation and submission to mainstream propaganda industry we call media. If nothing else, thank you for that clarification, PBS.

  • Tim Kincaid

    Sage grouse will adapt.
    Some of the sage grouse will figure out that those giant things mean them no harm. I say leave this one to Charles Darwin.
    If we don’t start taking this “renewable energy” thing very seriously, homo sapiens are going to be on the endangered spies list.

  • Ken

    I bet they will lower the speed limit when they start the road construction in order to protect the workers or the roadside.

  • Larson

    The inspired piece at the end about Sarah Palin’s “fictionary” was flat-out genius. Andy Borowitz continues to be the star of this show.

  • Bruce

    The Sherrod saga is NOTHING I needed to know, any more than Lohan’s New MUGSHOT, especially when this week’s feature was listed as Bloomberg investigative reporter Bob Ivry’s expose’ of “how the financial reform (cum DEFORM) bill Falls SHORT! Are you “voluntarily” censoring such Shocking and Awful TRUTH tellers? DEM Obama needs no brainstem media protection!

  • Mike

    Wow “Sticking it to whitey”???
    At two minutes into to the broadcast John Mecham uses the phrase “sticking it to whitey” on the lead into the Shirley Sherrod segment. A segment that basically states white racism still exists and that reverse racism is rarely encountered. If Fox News used the phrase “sticking it to (fill in ethnic color)y” in any context, a racism charge from the left media would not be far behind. The Breitbart clip was a hatchet job that lead the viewers to only one conclusion. However, viewing the whole clip doesn’t totally absolve Ms. Sherrod. She admits that she was only going to help farmer to the extent she was required because he was white and she felt he was talking down to her. She didn’t follow up on the case, the farmer had to call her back and in the end she realizes it wasn’t a black/white issue (though she states there are still black/white issues) but a rich/poor (have/have not) issue. Now imagine a 55 year old white male government employee speaking at a Tea Party conference recalling a similar encounter about a black client using the terms “them” and “their kind”. I wonder if the President would personally call him after his most certain termination.

  • Shelley Lewis

    Mike–the phrase was meant ironically. It’s such an old time, over-the-top phrase we thought that would be obvious. Sorry if it offended.

  • Mike

    Shelley, Sadly you miss the point, “Old time, over-the-top” phrases whether used for irony (normally for emphasis or shock) or not are allowed for some but not others. I was not offended, I am a strong proponent of the First Ammendment, however, I believe it is wasted on the media both right and left. As a journalist, your concern shouldn;t be whether the phrase offended me, it should be whether it adds value to the story. “Old time, over-the-top” phrases rarely do.

  • Richard R. Guzman

    While I agree that the state of our media in this knee-jerk, partisan, 24/7 world is a big part of the Shirley Sherrod story, I think “Reverse Discrimmination”–only touched on by John Meachem and Terrence Samuel–is an even bigger part. I am also puzzled that Mr. Samuel thinks we are far past so many race issues. “Reverse Discrimmination” is today’s biggest code for whites (mainly) not wanting to face up to their overwhelming privilege and the continuing reality of racism today. It’s as if we now have a playing field so tilted against whites that they think they have become the real victims. Reverse discrimmination does exist, and it’s too bad it happens, but it absolutely pales in comparison to the discrimmination that still keeps minorities out of better educational, social, health and employment opportunities in the first place. In my state, Illinois, for example, black children are still 40 times likely to be in failing schools than white children. Not 2 or 10 or 20 times more likely, but 40 times. Virtually every major measure of equality argues clearly and mightily that we have a long way to go before racism and its effects are in the past, and charges of reverse discrimmination are essentially efforts to deny this.

  • NLF777

    Mr. Terence Samuel,

    I have almost the same problem, I tried going to the News Papers in Phoenix, also almost all TV stations, especially the so-called “Investigators”. But the unwritten law is not to respond because the Employer is too High and Almighty. What can a person with minimum wage do. There is supposed to be “Justice” but we are pushed under the rug, because we are the “Not so Important”.

    This same judge is ruling on the SB 1070 in Arizona, she rules according to the law, there is not leverage for Compassion, Empathy, Pity or the social graces that pertain to the Human Race.

    Could somebody, please call me, or let me know what I can do to put a black mark on this Judge for the complete disregard of my case. I don’t have any money to fight this case or appeal.

  • Kit54

    A funny thing happened when the Sherrod story broke. I heard it first on the NBC Nightly news yet your story targets Fox News for not checking the facts. Your story would be credible if you had flashes of all the networks that reported the story that day and who really jumped the gun. I love PBS programming for the most part and make every effort to get my news from a variety of sources. Perhaps you ought to practice what appear to be chastising Fox for because you slant is far more obvious. At least Bill O’Reilly, the first Fox program to report this story apologized the next day. I watch NBC Nightly News every evening and have yet to hear an apology for doing what you claim Fox is guilty of. I now know that I must watch your series with great caution and not take it too serious.

    Also, I am not a Palin backer by any stretch but it appears you feel she’s a threat otherwise you wouldn’t have given her the time of day? What exactly did I need to know and get out of that piece other than to see that you are no better than those you codemn. I strongly recommend you stop trying to compete with SNL!

  • Kit54

    For the PBS website developers. Your comment box isn’t very iPad friendly. It would be nice if iPad users could scroll back to proof text prior to submitting it, or at least give the commenter a chance to proof and edit before a final submission.

    Just a thought!

  • What PBS Thinks You Need to Know — FAIR DEVELOPMENT SITE

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