Does the White House overreact to conservative media? "No."  (ap photo)

The White House briefing got a late start today -- more than 90 minutes after it was originally scheduled. Wagon-circling? Robert Gibbs emerged to face a barrage of questions on the Shirley Sherrod matter in an oddly passive voice.

"A disservice was done, an apology is owed," Gibbs said."Mistakes were made."

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was "trying to reach" Sherrod around the time of the briefing to deliver that apology and "talk about the next steps," Gibbs said. Some reports have said Sherrod doesn't want her job back.

Told that Sherrod was watching him on CNN, Gibbs sounded a little panicky and said someone (not him) would be talking with her. Beltway suspects (along with the rest of the WH press corps) that Obama is going to call Sherrod himself. Gibbs said he'll let us know.

"Decisions were made based on what we knew at the time," he said.

So how did this happen? Why did the administration drop this federal employee in the grease without, as Gibbs conceded, knowing all the facts?

Gibbs blamed "rapid advances in technology" combined with "culture, race, media and politics." But mostly he just blamed the media.

"We live in a culture that things whip around," he said. "We want to give fast responses."

He said the story came out before all the facts were known and the right questions were asked. He talked about President Obama's eulogy for Walter Cronkite, in which he noted that getting it first was not as important as getting it right. Then Gibbs added, "I'm not here to fault the media."

He was asked a few times whether the administration overreacts to conservative commentators -- he said no.

Gibbs called the incident "a teachable moment."