Andrew Breitbart smeared former USDA official Shirley Sherrod as a “racist,” using as “proof” a heavily edited video of comments she made during a March NAACP event that he posted on his site BigGovernment.com. In fact, the full video of Sherrod's statements vindicated Sherrod, showing that she was telling a story about getting beyond race, and media figures and outlets from across the board have rejected Breitbart's false claims against her.
Breitbart smeared Sherrod as a racist
Based on heavily edited video, Breitbart smears Sherrod as a “racist.” In a July 19 blog post on Big Government, titled “Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism--2010,” Andrew Breitbart smeared Sherrod as a racist and falsely claimed that Sherrod's “federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions” :
We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.
In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind” . She refers him to a white lawyer.
Sherrod's racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups' racial tolerance.
But full video vindicates Sherrod, destroys Breitbart's accusations of racism. In the full video, Sherrod recounts how she ultimately helped the farmer avoid foreclosure on his farm. Indeed, while Breitbart's video included Sherrod saying that she initially didn't do everything she could, it omitted her explanation that she later went to much greater lengths to help the farmer. She goes on to say how her encounter with the farmer “made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people” regardless of whether they were black, white, or Hispanic.
Farmer and his wife said Sherrod “helped us save our farm.” On the July 20 broadcast of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Roger Spooner -- the white farmer Sherrod was discussing in her video -- called charges that Sherrod was racist “ridiculous.” He said: "[T]his is, is a bunch of hogwash, in my opinion. Now, it -- she was just as nice to us as anyone could have been. And, as far as racism and all, that's -- it's just ridiculous." He also credited Sherrod for being “helpful in every way” and for “sav[ing] our farm.” In a different July 20 interview with CNN, Eloise Spooner -- the wife of the farmer who Sherrod helped -- came to the defense of Sherrod, calling her a “friend” who “helped us save our farm.” The Atlanta-Constitution Journal similarly reported that Spooner considered Sherrod a “friend for life” and said that Sherrod “worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.” From the Atlanta-Constitution Journal:
But Spooner, who considers Sherrod a “friend for life,” said the federal official worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.
“Her husband told her, 'You're spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,' ” Spooner told the AJC, “She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out.”
Media across the board reject Breitbart's Sherrod lie
NRO's Goldberg: Sherrod is “owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart.” In a July 21 post, NRO's Jonah Goldberg said Breitbart owes Sherrod an apology:
I think she should get her job back. I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart. I generally think Andrew is on the side of the angels and a great champion of the cause. He says he received the video in its edited form and I believe him. But the relevant question is, Would he have done the same thing over again if he had seen the full video from the outset? I'd like to think he wouldn't have. Because to knowingly turn this woman into a racist in order to fight fire with fire with the NAACP is unacceptable. When it seemed that Sherrod was a racist who abused her power, exposing her and the NAACP's hypocrisy was perfectly fair game. But now that we have the benefit of knowing the facts,the equation is completely different.
AP: Obama administration is “standing by its quick decision” to fire Sherrod “despite evidence that her remarks were misconstrued.” In a July 20 article, the AP reported the “evidence that her remarks were misconstrued.”
CNN's Cooper: Sherrod “was smeared by allegations of racism, lost her job, and is now being redeemed by...the whole truth.” On the July 20 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, host Anderson Cooper discussed how an “edited” tape took Sherrod's remarks “out of context” and was used to “smear” her as a racist:
COOPER: But we begin tonight with “Keeping Them Honest” on the story much of the country has been talking about today. Twenty-four hours ago, you probably never heard of this woman, Shirley Sherrod. Now it's likely she's a household name.
In that time, comments she made were taken out of context. She was smeared by allegations of racism, lost her job, and is now being redeemed by the truth, it seems, the whole truth. Her story, the whole story, says a lot about how quick we can be to judge, how wrong we can be when we do, and how the truth is out there, if only people would only seek it out, instead of trying to score political points or run from political heat.
If more people did, Shirley Sherrod might still have a job.
She was forced out as the Agriculture Department's Georgia director of rural development over an edited videotape of remarks she made at a local banquet last March.
David Gergen: “What needs to be done is to correct what appears to be a deep injustice to this woman.” On the July 20 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen criticized the “crucifying” of Sherrod, and said “what needs to be done is to correct what appears to be a deep injustice to this woman” :
GERGEN: This is about a very simple case, a woman who gave a speech that was distorted and twisted on the Internet, as so often happens, and an administration and an NAACP and a lot of other people who jumped the gun in going after her and crucifying her. First, they hung her. And now we're going to get around to a trial.
What needs to be done is to correct what appears to be a deep injustice to this woman.
On the July 20 edition of Anderson Cooper 360, Gergen added that the Sherrod case “has ripped away the veil and shown us all that is wrong with politics today. An ideologue injects poison into the Internet. Other people rush to judgment on camera. And then an administration gets stampeded and commits this travesty of justice.”
Donna Brazile: Breitbart “deliberately put an edited tape out on the Internet and...smeared her good name.” On the July 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN contributor Donna Brazile said Breitbart “deliberately put an edited tape out on the Internet and...smeared her good name” :
BRAZILE: Everyone reacted because someone deliberately put an edited tape out on the Internet and...smeared her good name before listening to the entire tape. If you saw the statement out of context, I understand why the government and the NAACP may have overreacted.
Scarborough: “Shame on all the news organizations” that ran edited Sherrod clip on a loop without having the entire story." On the July 21 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, conservative host Joe Scarborough said “shame on all the news organizations” that ran edited clip of Sherrod on a loop without having the entire story."
First Read: Breitbart and his crew are “not out for the truth; they're out for scalps.” MSNBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg wrote in a July 21 post on First Read:
*** Snookered: After conservative activist James O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering a federal building under false pretenses, you would have thought that all of us in the ACTUAL news business would have learned this lesson about Andrew Breitbart and his protégés: They're not out for the truth; they're out for scalps. So once again, we find out that Breitbart has distributed an EDITED video that gets wide play on Drudge and cable TV; that the target of the video is embarrassed, forced to resign, or stripped of federal funding; and that -- surprise, surprise -- the video didn't tell the whole truth.
*** Beware of the shiny metal object: Breitbart and other conservatives used race as the bait to guilt the so-called MSM and the Obama administration. Is this a story about race? Is it a story about the media? It's both, but let's not let race be the shiny metal object that distracts from the conversation about today's media culture and Washington's addiction to it.
RedState's Erickson: "[W]e shouldn't be collecting her scalp." In a July 20th post on RedState.com, titled “Collecting scalps at what cost?” Erick Erickson expressed regret for prematurely attacking Sherrod based on Breitbart's false claims:
Andrew Breitbart promised he would do to the left what the left has been doing to the right for years. He is gathering quite the collection of leftwing scalps and will forever warm the hearts of the right for the ACORN takedown alone. I'm glad he is on our side.
That said, I think Shirley Sherrod has been unfairly characterized as a racist.
But in this instance, if this is all there is and it seems it may be all we have to examine, we shouldn't be collecting her scalp. We should be hopeful for more people willing to realize the world does not revolve around race.
If there is nothing more to Ms. Sherrod's remarks, I think we've made a mistake.
That war has casualties on both sides. Ms. Sherrod is the latest. It is not fair.
RedState's Josh Treviño: “Gotta agree with [Erick Erickson] that Shirley Sherrod may have been done wrong.” In a July 20 tweet, RedState founder Josh Treviño agreed with Erickson that “Shirley Sherrod may have been done wrong.”
HotAir's Allahpundit: “How long before Vilsack gives her her job back?” In a July 20 post that shows the full Sherrod video, HotAir's Allahpundit asks “how long before [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack gives her her job back?”
[S]he segues into a historical narrative about racism being an artificial construct manufactured by wealthy interests to keep lower-class blacks and whites divided when in fact they should be working together. Exit question: How long before Vilsack gives her her job back?
Krauthammer: “She is owed an apology, a restitution, and the restoration after her job. I don't think there is any question about that.” On the July 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said Sherrod should receive an apology and her job back:
KRAUTHAMMER: She is owed an apology, a restitution, and the restoration after her job. I don't think there is any question about that.
Beck: "[T]his woman deserves her job back." On the July 20 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, host Beck said Sherrod “deserves her job back” :
BECK: OK. This looks really bad. Context matters.
Now, if she is relating a point about 1986 to make a point about her racial perceptions changed, this woman deserves her job back.
NRO's Spruiell: Sherrod “hasn't done anything to deserve to lose her job.” In a July 20 post, NRO's Stephen Spruiell criticized the firing of Sherrod and concluded that she “hasn't done anything to deserve to lose her job.”
The NAACP has posted the full video of the Shirley Sherrod speech. After watching it, it is impossible not to conclude that the Obama administration made the wrong decision in forcing her resignation.
NRO's Rich Lowry: “Of course she should get her job back.” In a July 21 post, NRO's Rich Lowry criticized the “chewing..up and spitting...out” of Sherrod, and concluded that “of course she should get her job back” :
Its politics aside, her full speech is heartfelt and moving. It's the tale of someone overcoming hatred and rancor when she had every reason not to. Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America--chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves. Of course she should get her job back, although the Department of Agriculture is bizarrely standing by her firing so far. Here's hoping President Obama convenes a beer summit between Secretary Vilsack and Sherrod as soon as possible and sorts this thing out.