Shirley Sherrod

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Shirley Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod is a former United States Department of Agriculture official, who was fired by Tom Vilsack, the head of the Department of Agriculture, due to aired video excerpts provided by Andrew Breitbart, which purportedly showed Sherrod making racist remarks concerning a farmer who sought her help in financing for his farm in 1986.[1] Sherrod was the Georgia State Director for the USDA.

Shirley Sherrod - Biography

Click here to view Shirley Sherrod's biography...

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Shirley the girlie.JPG

At Farm Aid 2014, in Raleigh, North carolina, Missouri Rural Crisis Center members, Maylene Johnston and Joyce Perry, reunite with Shirley Sherrod, from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Georgia, and Gary Grant, President of The Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association.

Shirley Sherrod and Gary Grant have long histories in the Civil Rights Movement & with Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Shirley helped MRCC leaders, including Joyce and Maylene, create Patchwork Family Farms in 1993. In 1995, Gary joined MRCC members in our fight against Premium Standard Farms at our first rally in Putnam County.[2]

Pigford vs. Glickman

Rep. Steve King - Air date: 07-21-10

Sherrod and her husband (Charles Sherrod) at one time were unable to secure loans from the USDA and lost their farm.[3] In Pigford vs. Glickman, Sherrod and other activists sued the USDA claiming that the suit was levied to protect other farms owned by African Americans and that these minority-owned farms were in danger of being lost and shut down. The USDA settled and agreed to pay compensation which was due between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1999.[4] This was the largest civil rights settlement in American history. Nearly $1.15 billion was paid out to more than 16,000 alleged victims. Further, another bill was passed in 2008 that allowed another 70,000 claimants to qualify for compensation. An incredibly high percentage of those receiving awards under this settlement have received them fraudulently.[5] There is also a Pigford II case in the works.[6] The second settlement could be for as much as another 1 billion dollars or even more in reparations to African American farmers.[7]

Not only were the Sherrods original filers in the Pigford Farms case, they received a large amount of money for her company, New Communities, Inc. In fact, the largest amount was rewarded to New Communities. A whopping $13 million in compensation. New Communities was a bankrupt commune-type land trust held by Sherrod and her husband. She and her husband personally received $150,000 each to compensate each of them for “pain and suffering.”

In a major conflict of interest which should never have been approved, the USDA hired Shirley Sherrod in August of 2009 as the Georgia Director of Rural Development. She became the first African American to hold the position in US history. Congressman Steve King has pledged that if Republicans win the House back in November of 2010, he will initiate an investigation into Sherrod’s hiring. He is on the House Agriculture Committee.[8]

Some very pertinent questions are still left to be answered over the Pigford case. From Tom Blumer at the Washington Examiner:

  • Was Ms. Sherrod's USDA appointment an unspoken condition of her organization's settlement?
  • How much "debt forgiveness" is involved in USDA's settlement with New Communities?
  • Why were the Sherrods so deserving of a combined $300,000 in "pain and suffering" payments -- amounts that far exceed the average payout thus far to everyone else? ($1.15 billion divided by 16,000 is about $72,000)?
  • Given that New Communities wound down its operations so long ago (it appears that this occurred sometime during the late 1980s), what is really being done with that $13 million in settlement money?

Here are a few more far-reaching questions:

  • Did Shirley Sherrod resign so quickly because the circumstances of her hiring and the lawsuit settlement with her organization that preceded it might expose some unpleasant truths about her possible and possibly sanctioned conflicts of interest?
  • Is USDA worried about the exposure of possible waste, fraud, and abuse in its handling of Pigford?
  • Did USDA also dispatch Sherrod hastily because her continued presence, even for another day, might have gotten in the way of settling Pigford matters quickly?[9]

It has also come to light that President Barack Obama sponsored the Pigford Claims Remedy Act of 2007. It never became law, but the relationship here is of interest.[10]

Is Pigford simply another form of reparations being paid to African Americans? If not, then why did the USDA admit to discriminating against thousands of African American farmers for years and is only now agreeing to pay the price? Full disclosure and transparency on the case is far from available. No one in the USDA has fully explained the lawsuit and the how and why it is being settled the way it is. The media has not covered this to any degree. And Americans are still left asking why there was a deliberate decision by the USDA to write checks to virtually any African American who stepped forward with a claim of "racism."[11]

Charles Sherrod - the "Uncle Toms" Video

Sherrod New Communities Suit - Air date: 07-26-10

Charles Sherrod gave a white separatist speech in January of 2010.[12] In a video provided by Riehl World View,[13] Mr. Sherrod's views are excerpted as Shirley Sherrod's were in the Breitbart clips. But there is no mistaking his sentiments in the clip:

"Young people, you will be making more money than we ever dreamed of. Please find a way, find a way that we can trust each other so that our moneys can work for our total liberation.
"We have ideas, inventions, athletic talent. But our labor and our moneys and our contracts usually end up in the white folks' hands and pockets.
"When will we trust our own?
"Finally we must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black. And we must not be afraid to turn a black out who votes against our interests."

Shirley Sherrod has been repeatedly portrayed as a victim and as an enlightened reformed racist. However, her actions dictate otherwise. She has smeared and besmirched anyone who has stood against her political agenda and especially those who are white while labeling them as racist. In her NAACP speech that started the controversy, Sherrod smeared Republicans as racists for not supporting Obama's healthcare mandate. She has also accused Fox News of wanting blacks to live like they did under Jim Crow and she has vociferously called Andrew Breitbart a racist who wants blacks to be enslaved again.

Both of the Sherrods are also known for speaking in terms of race using the phrases: "my people" and "his own kind," as is evidenced in the video clips where each of them speaks.

New Communities Inc. (NCI) - the Other Side of the Story

Lost in the NAACP controversy and Sherrod's claim to be a 'reformed racist,' is the story of her time at New Communities Inc. During her time in her role there, it would seem there are those that claim she held an ostensibly elitist and anti-black-labor viewpoint. Along with her cohorts at NCI, Sherrod underpaid, mistreated and fired black laborers, many of which were under 16 years of age. She did so in those very same fields of southwest Georgia that her ancestors labored under the yoke of slavery.

Ron Wilkins at CounterPunch tells a decidedly different story of Sherrod's deeds back in the 1970s. He is a former organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and worked with Sherrod at NCI during that time. According to Wilkins, Sherrod's history is rife with abuse towards black laborers and underage workers. From CounterPunch:

If confession is good for the soul, then Mrs. Sherrod took a first step toward her redemption by admitting the error of her ways in her earlier attitudes toward poor white farmers. Mrs. Sherrod says she began to see poverty as more central than race. So, should indigent black child farm laborers warrant less reflection by Mrs. Sherrod? What lessons does she have to share from her tenure as management when she had power over her own people working under deplorable conditions at the same New Communities Inc.(NCI) identified in the current issue? Shirley Sherrod could have included this chapter of her history in the same confession speech. Justice and integrity require at least as much accountability from Mrs. Sherrod to the poor black farm workers of NCI as to the white farmers she came to befriend. This lack of full disclosure of the whole truth is a “sin of omission” that trivializes the suffering of poor black farm workers and exacerbates the offenses of NCI.
Shirley Sherrod was New Communities Inc.'s store manager during the 1970s. As such, Mrs. Sherrod was a key member of the NCI administrative team, which exploited and abused the workforce in the field. The 6,000 acre New Communities Inc. in Lee County promoted itself during the latter part of the 1960s and throughout the 70s as a land trust committed to improving the lives of the rural black poor. Underneath this facade, the young and old worked long hours with few breaks, the pay averaged sixty-seven cents an hour, fieldwork behind equipment spraying pesticides was commonplace and workers expressing dissatisfaction were fired without recourse.

Eventually, loan discrimination and relentless creditors did take down New Communities Inc. in 1985. But NCI's, and Sherrod's, unfair labor practices and incompetent leadership were equally, if not more so, to blame for the company's failure.[14] Sherrod's abuse and exploitation of fellow African Americans is also covered here: Bringing Shirley Sherrod’s Past Into the Light.

Anatomy of a Controversy - the NAACP Videos

The forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod from her position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture[15] occurred after conservative activist and blogger Andrew Breitbart posted video excerpts of Sherrod's address at a March 2010 NAACP event to his Big Government website.[16] The NAACP condemned her remarks and U.S. government officials called on her to resign. Upon review of more of the video in context, the NAACP, White House officials and Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, apologized soon after and Sherrod was offered a new position.

The excerpts were posted by Breitbart on July 19, 2010, shortly after the NAACP passed a resolution "calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches."[17] He alleged that some NAACP members condoned racism despite publicly opposing it. In one video, Shirley Sherrod, an African-American woman, described her own attitude, while employed at a private advocacy firm in 1986, when a white farmer sought her help after his farm was about to be foreclosed upon.[18] USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack revisited Sherrod's firing after the full version of the video, which presents additional context for Sherrod's excerpted remarks, was made public. The event brought to the forefront current debates regarding racism in the United States, cable news reporting, internet ideological websites and President Barack Obama's administration decisions.[19] The Obama administration has since apologized to Sherrod and has offered her another job with the Department of Agriculture.[20] Sherrod has not yet decided if she will accept the job offer and is possibly considering a law suit.[21]

Click here for the complete text of Sherrod's speech to the NAACP.

Sherrod Videos and Timeline

Click here to view the timeline and videos of the NAACP controversy...

Sherrod's Account

Sherrod vehemently denied that she was a racist after the video excerpts aired. She claimed that she "went all out" to ensure the Spooner's would be able to keep their farm. This was enforced by the Spooner's claiming Sherrod had helped them and that they were now friends.[22] Shirley also claimed that the incident helped her move beyond race and she reinforced that statement repeatedly.[23]

After the NAACP released the full video, it showed Sherrod relating her experience with the Spooners, who came to her in 1986. They were the first white farmers to come to Sherrod for assistance. Sherrod intones in the video that "the land was being sold, and had in fact already been rented out from under him." She at first felt that the farmer was exhibiting a superior attitude towards her, which she claims brought back memories of life in the South including the murder of her father.[24] She goes on to state:

I didn't let that get in the way of trying to help... I didn't discriminate ... If I had discriminated against him, I would not have given him any help at all because I wasn't obligated to do it by anyone ... I didn't have to help that farmer. I could have sent him out the door without giving him any help at all. But in the end, we became very good friends, and that friendship lasted for some years.

Sherrod states that African-American farmers would not support Spooner: "I didn't know of any black farmers who would come out and try to support a white farmer at that point. ... I wasn't really sure of what I could do because at that time, I thought they [white people] had the advantages. I learned that was not the case." She then claims she had done her job and took Spooner to a white attorney, since he would be more comfortable with one of his 'own kind.' She further states:

[I]f I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him ... but that lawyer failed to help ... I did not discriminate against [the farmer]. And, in fact, I went all out to frantically look for a lawyer at the last minute because the first lawyer we went to was not doing anything to really help him. In fact, that lawyer suggested they should just let the farm go. The second attorney [was able to help the farmer] file Chapter 11 bankruptcy to help the family stay on the farm.

Screws vs. the U.S. Government

In the speech to the NAACP Freedom Fund banquet, Shirley Sherrod claimed that a relative, Bobby Hall, was lynched. Her description of the actions of the 1940s-era Sheriff Claude Screws is quite clear: "Claude Screws lynched a black man."

There's just one problem, this is not true. From The American Spectator concerning Screws vs. the U.S. Government:

The case, Screws vs. the U.S. Government, as she accurately says in the next two paragraphs, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Which, with the agreement of all nine Justices of the day -- which is to say May 7, 1945 -- stated the facts of the killing of Bobby Hall this way:
The arrest was made late at night at Hall's home on a warrant charging Hall with theft of a tire. Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness. There was evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall, and had threatened to "get" him.
The very first paragraph of the Supreme Court decision states:
1. Upon review of a judgment affirming the conviction, for violation of § 20 of the Criminal Code and conspiracy thereunto, of local law enforcement officers who arrested a negro citizen for a state offense and wrongfully beat him to death, the judgment is reversed with directions for a new trial.
In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States, with the basic facts of the case agreed to by all nine Justices in Screws vs. the U.S. Government, says not one word about Bobby Hall being lynched. Why? Because it never happened.

Spooner Family's Account

Roger Spooner said on CNN that Sherrod is not a racist. That Sherrod did everything she could for his family and over twenty years later, he and Sherrod remain friends.[25] The Spooners claim that Sherrod was instrumental in helping them save their farm:

"If it hadn't been for her, we would've never known who to see or what to do," Roger Spooner said. "She led us right to our success."

Eloise Spooner (Roger Spooner's wife), said that later, "after things kind of settled down, she brought Sherrod some tomatoes out of her garden and they had a good visit." She recalled Sherrod as "nice-mannered, thoughtful, friendly; a good person." The couple were surprised by the controversy. "I don't know what brought up the racist mess," Roger Spooner said. "They just want to stir up some trouble, it sounds to me in my opinion." Eloise Spooner said that on seeing the story of Sherrod's resignation, "I said, 'That ain't right. They have not treated her right.'"

Andrew Breitbart's Side of the Story

Andrew Breitbart factually states: context is everything.

Breitbart finds himself in a political and racial maelstrom after taking a stance in defense of the Tea Party movement. After witnessing a myriad of attacks labeling the Tea Party as racist and vociferous calls for the movement to denounce racists within their midst, Breitbart penned an article in defense of the most popular political movement in the US since its inception.

Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010

In the article, he points out the fact that the racist claims against the Tea Party have never been proven. And that no one could possibly live up to what the Progressive left is calling for. And in the same instance, the Progressive left seems to hold themselves to a contradictory set of standards, suffering from many or most of the things that they are accusing others of perpetrating.

Breitbart then posts two clips from a video that the NAACP had a complete copy of the whole time. Breitbart was in receipt of seven clips which he did not release for months and only did so when partisan attacks from the left became extreme and were not held up to the light of day by the media. The mainstream media is complicit with Progressive elements in the American government to forward a fundamental change in government that renders the Constitution and all America was founded on meaningless and impotent.

His frustration is well-founded and he correctly points out that the NAACP has become nothing more than a propaganda machine for the Democratic Party and Progressives. From Breitbart:

The NAACP which has transformed from a civil rights group to a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party and social-justice politics, supports a new America that relies less on individualism, entrepreneurialism and American grit, but instead giddily embraces, the un-American notion of unaccountability and government dependence. Shirley Sherrod, a federal appointee who oversees over a billion dollars of federal funds, nearly begs black men and women into taking government jobs at USDA — because they won’t get fired.

The MSM would have you believe this is all out of context over a video that is 24 years old. But Sherrod's views, associations and political leanings tell another story entirely. While the left tries to 'manufacture' a racial divide, Breitbart is steadfastly standing by his research and the facts. From Breitbart:

This is why the Democratic Party is scared. This is why the NAACP is scared. This is why black conservatives, previously marginalized as “Uncle Toms” by these progressive bullies, and shamefully, the NAACP, are coming out of the woodwork to join and, in many cases, lead the Tea Party movement.
The emerging Tea Party nation understands that the media has focused on the manufactured racial schism while intentionally ignoring the schism between free market thinkers and government expansionists, that the latter of which is brazen in its desire to transform America into a European-model welfare state with a healthy dose of socialism.
It’s unfortunate that the NAACP’s recent resolution and false accusations have forced us to show you video 1 when video 2 is the bigger problem. That’s not to say video 1 is not a problem, but this country can ill afford, in this time of economic peril, to waste our time poking and prodding at the racial hornet’s nest that was supposed to have been removed with this post-racial presidency. But now President Obama and the modern-day Democrat party reveal they are anything but post-racial.
Yet again, the juxtaposition of the real video evidence shown here versus the mainstream media’s straight faced reportage of the NAACP’s baseless accusations demonstrates that, once again, the American mainstream media has asserted itself as the number one enemy of the truth, when the facts don’t fit the left-wing narrative. Like the NAACP, it has become no better than Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in its willingness to exploit race for political ends and their unflinching support of the Obama’s left-wing agenda.

As Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck have pointed out, context is everything...[26]

Resignation from the USDA

Sherrod has said that on July 19th, 2010, the day of the airing of the excerpts, she received numerous demands from government officials that she resign immediately. She characterized the demands as harassment. Sherrod was instructed to pull over to the side of the road since she was traveling, to resign on the spot. In response to a call from Cheryl Cook, the USDA Deputy Undersecretary, she submitted her resignation via email. She claims that Cook told her that White House officials wanted her resignation immediately because of a brewing controversy over the Breitbart video excerpts and because Sherrod was "going to be on Glenn Beck tonight,"[27] a claim that the White House disputed and which proved to be untrue as Glenn Beck had not even aired the story yet.

Subsequent Events

Reactions to the Controversy

Ralph Paige, who is the executive director of the nonprofit organization that Sherrod worked for prior to being appointed to the USDA job in 2009, stated that Sherrod "garnered only praise and there were never any claims of discrimination against her," and went further to state that "I can't praise Shirley enough, she holds no malice in her heart."

The NAACP's President Benjamin Jealous said in his first statement on the video excerpts:

Racism is about the abuse of power. Ms. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race. We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers. Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man. The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.[28]

After the NAACP released the full videotape for public viewing, they retracted their previous statement and newly stated:

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias ... Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

Fox News, who defended Sherrod when the event first came to light re: Glenn Beck, has also posited that her resignation may have embodied an attempt by the Obama administration to deflect accusations of "reverse racism" which have occurred during his time in office. Theoretically, Sherrod may have been used as a political "sacrifical lamb."[29]

Due to the volatility of the whole NAACP video controversy, Secretary Vilsack released a prepared statement during the evening of July 20, 2010 which stated that the USDA will "conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts."[30] Sherrod blames the NAACP and states that they were "the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that."[31] She added that "she might not want her job back if it's offered ... because of all the publicity surrounding what happened … how would I be treated once I'm back there? I just don't know ... I would have to be reassured on that."[32]

Fox News strongly denied any claims from left leaning blogs, progressive media or the White House that they helped inflame the situation. Fox issued the following statement: "[The network] did not make any mention of this story yesterday on the air until after Shirley Sherrod had already lost her job after Secretary Vilsack had already drawn his own conclusions — conclusions that the President apparently agreed with."[33] The excerpts from the video and an article appeared on the Fox Nation before Sherrod resigned at 1:40 pm on the 19th, but was not mentioned on the Fox News Channel until AFTER her resignation.[34]

Later that day, the White House started an official review of the case. Vilsack sent an email in regards to the issue that states, "I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner."[35] Sherrod viewed the apology given by Robert Gibbs extended by the White House, from the CNN Center where she was being interviewed. Sherrod accepted the apology and welcomed the review.[36]

Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner strongly rebuked the airing of the video excerpts. He stated, "It’s unfortunate that whoever laid this out there didn’t lay out the whole story, as opposed to a part of it... They only put a little piece of the story out there and people make judgments and they rush and they make bad decisions."[37] In an interview with Joe Strupp of Media Matters, Sherrod answered an implication that Fox News was being racist in the initial reporting of controversy, "When you look at their (Fox News') reporting, this is just another way of seeing that they are [racist]. But I have seen that before now. I saw their reporting as biased during the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration."[38]

On July 21, 2010, Vilsack offered a "personal and profound apology to Shirley Sherrod for forcing her to resign as a result of an out-of-context video posted to a conservative website."[39] He also says that he offered Sherrod a new position and she is considering it. She was offered the Special Deputy Director Position (USDA Reparations Czar).[40]

Late on the 21st, Bill O'Reilly, who on the 19th was the first cable television broadcaster to air the excerpt of the video, apologized to Sherrod for his remarks calling for her termination.[39] O'Reilly said, "I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context."

Reactions by Andrew Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart has not offered any apologies to Sherrod, saying that she still harbors racist sentiments.[41]

On July 20, 2010, in an interview with CNN's John King, Breitbart answered interview questions regarding his intentions when he released the video excerpts:[42]

This was not about Shirley Sherrod. It's about the NAACP. This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party and this [the video of Ms. Sherrod] is showing racism at an NAACP event. I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired. I did not ask for any repercussions for Shirley Sherrod. They were the ones that took the initiative to get rid of her.

Reactions by Shirley Sherrod

In a phone call that lasted approximately seven minutes, President Obama apologized to Sherrod for the actions of his administration. Sherrod said she was "very, very pleased with the conversation."[43] On July 22nd, Sherrod said that she was considering taking legal action against Andrew Breitbart and that she would like to see Breitbart's Big Government website "shut down."[44]

From Big Journalism:

CNN Anchor to Shirley Sherrod: Would you like to see [Andrew Breitbart's] site to be shut down?
Shirley Sherrod: “That would be a great thing. Because I don’t see how that advances us in this country.”[45]

Anderson Cooper of CNN interviewed Sherrod and she referred to Breitbart as "vicious" and a "racist." She also stated that he would "like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery."[46] These baiting comments propelled Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online, who had previously called on Breitbart to apologize to Sherrod for releasing excerpts of the video, to argue that Sherrod should now apologize to Breitbart for implying that he supports reinstating slavery.[47][48] A similar response came from NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru.[49] On the defense for Sherrod, Salon's commentator Joan Walsh claimed, "She gets to say that because it’s true, and because from her vantage point it’s especially true."[50]

The full comment by Joan Walsh is as follows:

Joan Walsh, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: The woman's father was murdered by a white farmer, and there were witnesses. And the white justice system never found the murderer guilty. She's entitled to talk about race any way she wants to. That's not giving her a pass. Yes, any way she wants to. A bad experience in your background? I'm talking about murder. Murder, Matt. And the fact of the matter is, the woman turned out to be the antithesis of Andrew Breitbart, who told a story of racial reconciliation and healing and forgiving white people, and going on to help white people and going on to -- the issue in this country -- is class as much as race. I'm not giving her a pass. But I think the idea that she shouldn't be able to say Fox or Breitbart is racist preposterous. She gets to say that because it's true, and because from her vantage point it's especially true.[51]

Ron Coleman, intellectual property attorney, blogger and general counsel for the Media Bloggers Association, has said that Sherrod's potential case against Breitbart would be unlikely to succeed since the U.S. has sweeping freedom-of-speech protection making libel cases hard to win. Sherrod would have to prove that Breitbart had "actual malice."[52]

Sherrod now claims she will sue Andrew Breitbart for posting the video excerpts and making her appear racist.[53]

Selected Analysis and Commentary

Left-Right Politics

It is widely agreed upon that the clash between left and right ideologies in the US is a mitigating factor in this controversy. Sherrod's resignation came just weeks after the Department of Justice decided to scale down a lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party. Tea Party activists and conservatives saw this as a racially motivated event, one of many that the Obama administration is involved in.[54] The NAACP retaliated by passing a resolution "condemning extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches."[55] Breitbart, who is a moving force and a member within the Tea Party movement, stated that the video's debuting was in response to the NAACP's resolution.[56] The day before the Sherrod video excerpts surfaced, the National Tea Party Federation announced that it was disassociating itself from the Tea Party Express spokesperson Mark Williams because of a racially offensive letter that he had written in response to the NAACP resolution.[57]

Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton's Center for African American Studies, said some conservatives manipulated white fears for political advantage:

I think many white Americans are fearful that with Obama in the White House, and the diversity in his appointments, that the racial balance of power is shifting. And that's frightening both because people always are afraid to give up privilege, and because of the prospect of a black-and-brown backlash against a very ugly history. Some liberals have long maintained that racism requires power, and so black people can't be racist. Obama's election undercut the first argument and made the specter of black racism appear more threatening.[58]

David Harsanyi who writes for the Denver Post commented that "the Sherrod incident should be a teachable moment for the left... It illustrates how easily a reckless charge of racism can destroy someone." He stated that the incident brought an "onslaught of manufactured distress and outrage" to bear. He also noted that this was inconsistent with the lack of outrage shown when those on the right were attacked for remarks also taken out of context. David Limbaugh who writes for NewsMax, said that even though "two wrongs don't make a right," still, "How about the irony in the castigation of Breitbart for smearing someone as a racist by people who routinely smear an entire group of people (conservatives) as racists?"[59] Journalist Ben Smith of The Politico remarked:

The America of 2010 is dominated by racial images out of farce and parody, caricatures not seen since the glory days of Shaft. Fox News often stars a leather-clad New Black Panther, while MSNBC scours the Tea Party movement for racist elements, which one could probably find in any mass organization in America. Obama's own, sole foray into the issue of race involved calling a police officer 'stupid,' and regretting his own words [the Henry Louis Gates incident]. Conservative leaders and the NAACP, the venerable civil-rights group, recently engaged in a round of bitter name-calling that left both groups wounded and crying foul. Political correctness continues to reign in parts of the left, and now has a match in the belligerent grievance of conservatives demanding that hair-trigger allegations of racism be proven.

The evening of Sherrod's resignation, the President of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, tweeted that the NAACP was appalled by Sherrod's comments. The following day, the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack released a statement explaining his agency's actions in terminating Shirley Sherrod:

Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia. Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.[60]

Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post came to the defense of Fox News[61] and the allegations leveled at them from Sherrod, the NAACP, Media Matters and the left side of the blogosphere - from Sister Toldjah:

But for all the chatter — some of it from Sherrod herself — that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn’t touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O’Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: “Let’s take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let’s make sure we do this right.”
Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say “do it, because you’re going to be on ‘Glenn Beck’ tonight.” And for all the focus on Fox, much of the mainstream media ran with a fragmentary story that painted an obscure 62-year-old Georgian as an unrepentant racist.
On Monday night, O’Reilly played the clip posted by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart on his site He led his Wednesday program by criticizing some of Sherrod’s language but acknowledging his own mistake: “I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework... and for not putting her remarks into proper context.” While the excerpt showed Sherrod, an African American, telling the NAACP in a speech that she had discriminated against a white farmer as a nonprofit aid officer 24 years ago, the full speech made clear she was saying she had overcome that race-based bias and learned an important lesson.
In his Monday comments, O’Reilly credited Breitbart with posting the excerpt and concluded that her remarks were “simply unacceptable. And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately.” O’Reilly taped the show at 5 p.m., and by the time it aired about 8:50, USDA had announced Sherrod’s resignation (as Fox noted on the screen). Fox executives say O’Reilly’s staff, which is not part of the news division, sought comment from USDA throughout the day.

Shirley Sherrod - Media Reactions and Reports

Click here to view Shirley Sherrod's media reactions and reports...

Racial Bias and Education

Below are several quotes from an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, in which Shirley Sherrod and her husband are listed as signatories. It is clear from the amicus brief in which Sherrod participated, that she continued to harbor the view, as recently as just a few years ago, that the deck is stacked against African Americans and that preferences should be provided to them on the basis of their race, at least with respect to education.

A full copy of the amicus brief is available here (so that you can ensure that the quotes below have not been taken out of context):

  • “[B]ias continues to provide a comparative advantage to the white population as a whole in higher education admissions. Put more plainly, the effects of bias take most minority children out of the running for higher education, thinning out the competitive field for white children. Although young white students may not be personally part of the problem, they are personally the beneficiaries of the de facto pro-white ‘affirmative action’ of racial discrimination, past and present.”
  • “We know that affirmative action is still essential to achieving these goals, because wherever affirmative action has been barred by political or judicial action, the participation of students of color in higher education and in law school has plummeted, and the unfair white monopoly on educational access has been restored.”
  • “How can it be proper for race to be given weight — to be one legitimate factor, among others — in selecting the members of the highest court in the land, but not in the selection of a class of law school students? No, what is legitimate and constitutional for this Court is also legitimate and constitutional for the legal profession and for its gatekeeper, the law schools.”
  • “Perhaps one or two decades from today, the legacies of racial bias and oppression may be so thoroughly extirpated that any further consideration of race in law school or university admissions will be unnecessary. That day has not yet come. The question for today is whether this Court will permit our schools and the legal profession to move toward that day, or whether the Court will force us back in the opposite direction.”

Shirley Sherrod - Affiliations

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External links


  1. Shirley Sherrod To Obama: Come To Georgia, See How Regular Folks Live The Huffington Post, July 24, 2010
  2. MRCC End of Year update
  3. Despite adversity, Shirley Sherrod has history of civil service The Washington Post, July 22, 2010
  4. Sherrod's steadfast motto: 'Let's work together' CNN, July 22, 2010
  5. Pigford v. Glickman: 86,000 claims from 39,697 total farmers? Pajamas Media, July 27, 2010
  6. Black farmers eye next move in bias lawsuit Reuters, April 1, 2010
  7. Minority, women farmers’ discrimination suits nears settlement People's World, May 27, 2010
  8. Congressman: Sherrod’s Hiring Should Be Investigated Big Government, July 22, 2010
  9. Shirley Sherrod's Disappearing Act: Not So Fast Washington Examiner, July 20, 2010
  10. [ S. 1989: Pigford Claims Remedy Act of 2007], 2007
  11. Who Wants to be a Black Millionaire? American Renaissance, February, 2001
  12. New Sherrod Video: Husband of Shirley Sherrod Gave Black Separatist Speech in January 2010 Free Republic, July 26, 2010
  13. Sherrod: "We Must Stop The White Man And His Uncle Toms ..." Riehl World View, July 26, 2010
  14. The Other Side of Shirley Sherrod CounterPunch, August 2, 2010
  15. Vilsack: I Will Have to Live With Shirley Sherrod Mistake CBS News, July 21, 2010
  16. Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn't Give 'Full Force' of Help to White Farmer Fox News, July 20, 2010
  17. NAACP Delegates Vote to Repudiate Racist Elements Within Tea Party NAACP, July, 2010
  18. White House sorry for Shirley Sherrod 'racism' firing BBC News, July 20, 2010
  19. Shirley Sherrod blasts Fox News as racist The Washington Post, July 21, 2010
  20. Fired USDA official receives apologies from White House, Vilsack The Washington Post, July 22, 2010
  21. Sherrod: Andrew Breitbart is 'a liar' CNN, July 23, 2010
  22. Defending Shirley Sherrod: Farmer’s Wife Calls CNN To Stand Up For Fired USDA Official Mediaite, July 20, 2010
  23. NAACP 'snookered' over video of former USDA employee CNN, July 21, 2010
  24. Shirley Sherrod: the FULL video YouTube, July 20, 2010
  25. Endearing Talking Points Memo, July 21, 2010
  26. Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010 Big Government, July 19, 2010
  27. Sherrod: White House worried about Glenn Beck CNN, July 20, 2010
  28. NAACP Retracts Shirley Sherrod Statement, Says It Was "Snookered" by Fox News, Andrew Breitbart CBS News, July 20, 2010
  29. Why Was Shirley Sherrod Ousted? Fox News, July 21, 2010
  30. Fired Ag worker mulls job offer after WH apology, July 21, 2010
  31. N.A.A.C.P. Backtracks on Official Accused of Bias The New York Times, July 20, 2010
  32. Viral Politics: Shirley Sherrod Video Flap Highlights Political Trend ABC News, July 21, 2010
  33. Andrew Breitbart on 'Hannity': 'This Is Not About Shirley Sherrod' Fox News, July 21, 2010
  34. Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn't Give 'Full Force' of Help to White Farmer Fox News, July 20, 2010
  35. White House forced into U-turn over Shirley Sherrod race row The Guardian, July 22, 2010
  36. Vilsack, White House apologize to former USDA official CNN, July 21, 2010
  37. GOP House leader criticizes decision to air partial video of Shirley Sherrod The Daily Caller, July 21, 2010
  38. Sherrod: I'm a Victim of Breitbart, Fox 'Racism' Media Matters, July 21, 2010
  39. 39.0 39.1 Vilsack: I Will Have to Live With Shirley Sherrod Mistake CBS News, July 21, 2010
  40. Sherrod offered special deputy director position Atlantic Journal Constitution, July 24, 2010
  41. Breitbart: No apologies for posting edited Sherrod video ajs, July 22, 2010
  42. CNN, July 20, 2010
  43. Sherrod: Andrew Breitbart is 'a liar' CNN, July 23, 2010
  44. Shirley Sherrod Would Like BigGovernment Shut Down Mediaite, July 22, 2010
  45. From JournoList to Shirley Sherrod: The Left’s Default Response is Fascism Big Government, July 24, 2010
  46. Anderson Cooper 360: - Blogs CNN, July 23, 2010
  47. Shirley Sherrod — My Take NRO, July 21, 2010
  48. Re: And Now NRO, July 23, 2010
  49. And Now NRO, July 23, 2010
  50. Shirley Sherrod and Racial Politics The New Ledger, July 26, 2010
  51. Joan Walsh: Sherrod Can Call Fox and Breitbart Racist Because Father Was Killed By White Man NewsBusters, July 25, 2010
  52. Shirley Sherrod unlikely to succeed in court against Andrew Breitbart The Washington Examiner, July 30, 2010
  53. Shirley Sherrod Says She'll Sue Andrew Breitbart CBS News, July 29, 2010
  54. US official's speech sparks left-right racism row Irish Times, July 22, 2010
  55. NAACP Delegates Vote to Repudiate Racist Elements Within Tea Party NAACP
  56. Sherrod's "Teachable Moment" Time, July 21, 2010
  57. Tea party group expels leader for ‘clearly offensive’ blog post Yahoo! News, July 18, 2010
  58. Black racism: a real problem, or pure politics? AP, July 21, 2010
  59. Shirley Sherrod Fiasco Reveals Race Hypocrisy NewsMax, July 23, 2010
  60. Agriculture Secretary Stands By Asking For Sherrod's Resignation TPM, July 20, 2010
  61. Finger-pointing at Fox in Shirley Sherrod firing The Washington Post, July 22, 2010