Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Receives Apology From White House, Agriculture Department

Shirley Sherrod, who was falsely depicted as racist in a conservative blogger's edited video and fired from her job in the Agriculture Department, received an apology from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The latter offered her another position. The administration, the media and the NAACP at first castigated Sherrod without heeding the full story:

[Vilsack] was far from alone in vowing to learn from the episode that began when Andrew Breitbart, a conservative activist and blogger, posted to his site the video from a March 27 speech Sherrod gave at an NAACP event. By the time it played out two days later, it had vividly revealed how Washington's political culture is driven by impulse and self-interest -- often instead of judgment.

"Members of this administration, members of the media, members of different political factions on both sides of this have all made determinations and judgments without a full set of facts," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing, which CNN broadcast on a split screen with a live shot of Sherrod watching from its studio.

In the snippet of video on Breitbart's Web site, Sherrod, who is black, admitted to having been reluctant to help a white farmer who sought her aid 24 years before, when she was working for a nonprofit agency established to help black farmers.

What the clip did not show was the larger point Sherrod had made, one that was the opposite of the perception it created. From that episode, she told the NAACP audience, she had recognized her own prejudice, moved beyond it to an understanding that "there is no difference between us," and ultimately had helped the white farmer save his land.

In the reaction that followed the posting of the video, Sherrod not only was fired from her USDA post but was denounced by the Obama administration, the media and even the civil rights organization whose local chapter had invited her to speak.

Sherrod mounted her own defense in a series of appearances on CNN, and the farmer, Roger Spooner, and his family backed her up. But not until the NAACP released a video of the full speech Tuesday night did it become clear how misleading the excerpt was.

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