[updated x3 ] White House caves to Breitbart

I think many people have seen this video from Big Government being promoted by Fox, MSNBC which makes it look as if the USDA official Shirley Sherrod had in her offical capacity as a Federal employee refuse to help a white Georgain farmer.

Since then Tom Vilsack has asked Ms. Sherrod to resign from the USDA, and this was after "she had four calls telling her the White House wanted her to resign". Here's the full back story.

 

Twenty four years ago in 1986, Ms. Sherrod was then not an employee of the USDA, but an employee in the Georgia field office of a non-profit organization called Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund. The mission of the coop according to its website is:

Fighting To Save Black-Owned Land Since 1967 With Cooperatives

As a worker then she met a Southern white farmer Roger Spooner from Iron City, GA, who had fallen on hard times. However, this is how she characterized their initial interaction:

What he didn't know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him

She admits, she did not help this man to her best effort, but only did what she felt was necessary and took her to a "white lawyer", thinking that he would get better help from there. When the farmer did not get enough help from the lawyer, she scrambled to save his farm and had this realization:

The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it's about the people who have and the people who don't. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.

Unfortunately for her a heavily edited version of her speech at an NAACP event was put up by the notorious race-baiter and internet propagandist Andrew Breitbart and promoted by Fox and MSNBC. Needless to say the spineless elites in this administration decided to throw her under the bus rather than actually have an inquiry.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Sherrod's resignation in a statement released to Fox News Monday nigh.

"There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person," Vilsack said in the statement.

The only network to dig the truth was CNN, she appeared on John Roberts' show and had this to say:

ROBERTS: So, the question I have is, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture came to you and said you have to step down, why didn’t you just say, wait a minute, you don’t know the full story. Here’s the full story, why should I step down?

SHERROD: I did say that, but they, for some reason, the stuff that Fox and the Tea Party does is scaring the administration. I told them get the whole tape and look at the whole tape and look at how I tell people we have to get beyond race and start working together.

ROBERTS: Many people at home might be thinking if you’re recounting an old story, why did you succumb to pressure to step down, why didn’t you fight this?

SHERROD: If I tried to fight it and didn’t have any support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, what would I do?

As for the so-called aggrieved party, you know the farmer, what do they say?

Eloise Spooner, 82, awoke Tuesday to discover that Sherrod had lost her job after videotaped comments she made in March at a local NAACP banquet surfaced on the web.

Sherrod, who is black, told the crowd she didn't do everything she could to help a white farmer whom she said was condescending when he came to her for aid.

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."

Spooner called Sherrod Tuesday morning.

"She's very sad about it," Spooner said. "She told me she was so glad we talked. I just can't believe this is happening to her."

As the body count under the bus keeps piling up, one has to ask is there no end to the spinlessness of this administration. They take our support for granted, yet they don't think twice about renouncing someone based on mere innuendos, without a proper investigation. How shameful!! Eric Holder had said that when it comes to race, Amercia is a nation of cowards. Well Mr. Holder, maybe you should make those comments to your boss and his henchmen, because what they did to this woman is nothing short of that. In the mean time, what are the chances of a White House beer summit with the race-baiting Breitbart, Ms. Sherrod, and Mr. Jealous (yes the NAACP too were quick to denounce her without inquiry)?

[Update]

Eloise Spooner talks to CNN

[Update]

Notorious race-baiter Breitbart gave this statement regarding his role in falsely smearing Ms. Sherrod

I think the video speaks for itself. The way she's talking about white people ... is conveying a present tense racism in my opinion. But racism is in the eye of the beholder.

Racism is in the eyes of the beholder? Yeah right!!

[Update]

I have updated the course of events as they were happening:

NAACP backs down from initial statement

Glenn Beck chimes in for Ms. Sherrod!

Farmer Spooner backs Ms. Sherrod

WH doubles down with Tom Vilsack

Ms. Sherrod fires back at USDA, Breitbart and Fox News

NAACP posts the whole speech and Charles has an excellent summary

Like I had said in the comments below I have 4 issues with the way WH handled their role:

1. Why does the government cater to internet smears? Do they realize that if the same standards were applied to them, none of them would have a job.

2. There are some folks who wants to give the President a pass because he wants to stay above race, but in this case, the President is the employer. How can an employer fire someone purely based on speculation and rumors without an investigation? If she was wrongfully fired, then she has the right to sue the employer for wrongful termination, especially on the trumped up charge of racism.

3. Some even said that the USDA was justified because even the NAACP came to similar conclusion. I did not know that the NAACP was her employer, or that the NAACP was part of the government. The adminsitration fired her because they are cowardly and they would rather mollify the right wing smear machine than fight them.

4. Finally, I always hear unnamed WH sources (a perfect example of how craven they are) complaining about how progressives are not fighting for them. Why would any progressive fight for an administration that NEVER fights for progressives, except offer pablums and half-measures, and are willing to throw anyone under the bus to maintain its image?

Now reports on the WH reaction starts getting into the bizzaro territory:

Ben Smith

But three Democratic sources said deputy chief of staff Jim Messina singled out the White House's initial response to the incident for praise in the regular 8:30 a.m. staff meeting Tuesday morning. The sources differed on the substance of Messina's praise, but concurred that he had praised the speed of White House communications in response to the flap, which was driven by a misleadingly edited video posted to Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.

One source, who is unhappy with the administration's handling of the incident, paraphrased Messina's remarks: "We could have waited all day — we could have had a media circus — but we took decisive action, and it’s a good example of how to respond in this atmosphere."

But two other senior officials present at the meeting, who responded to a call to the White House press office, said the gist of Messina's words had been conveyed to POLITICO inaccurately, and that Messina — a top political operative and senior manager — was merely speaking in his capacity as deputy chief of staff for Operations and "cheerleader" to boost staffers' morale.

If Jim Messina thinks that the way WH handled this fiasco is an example of good communication, I shudder to think what would bad communication be from the WH. What incompetent twits!!

Finally for those wondering why I am not berating Breitbart and Fox, it's really quite simple, because I know this is what they do, race-baiting, fear-mongering, spreading smears, lies , propaganda and character assassination. I have no illusions about them, I don't read them and don't pay any attention to them. But when the administration wrongfully fires someone based on these lies and smears, without investigating the veracity of the claims, I have a big problem with that.

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Comments

14 Comments

In a word

This is shameful!! If this administration has any sense of propriety and fairness they would reinstate Shirley Sherrod immediately.

by tarheel74 2010-07-20 01:24PM | 0 recs
RE: [updated] White House caves to Breitbart

Honestly, I'm hoping some one with more resources stands up to Andrew Breibart's editing of videos.

I read the AJC story on it and it's shameful.

by Charles Lemos 2010-07-20 02:42PM | 0 recs
RE: [updated] White House caves to Breitbart

Breitbart is a race-baiter. He will always publish heavily edited videos to push his agenda. In this internet age, any idiot with a computer can do that. What baffles me is that the administration fired her based on these baseless smears without any investigation!! It is as if they learned nothing from the ACORN saga and somehow are under the illusion that if they pander to these racist nutjobs the problem will go away and they can maintain their post-racial, post-partisan blah blah blah image.

by tarheel74 2010-07-20 02:51PM | 0 recs
Compared to the WH, Glenn Beck appears sympathetic
"There's enough there that makes you say 'hmm,' but it's the only tape that I have seen on her. The only one." He added that the NAACP made a statement saying that they plan to talk to Sherrod and and watch the video before making a further statement. "When was the last time the NAACP didn't give someone the benefit of the doubt right away who was African-American?"

"Now if she is relating a story from1986 to make a point about how her racial perceptions have changed, this woman deserves her job back. Again, me at AA. Something is definitely wrong here," Beck said.

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/07/glenn_beck_defends_shirley_sherrod_its_possible_th.php

by tarheel74 2010-07-20 09:06PM | 1 recs
RE: Compared to the WH, Glenn Beck appears sympathetic

I was shocked until the AA bit at the end. The way he handled his addictions is the one thing to admire about him, and the people I know who are recovering alcoholics do have a different way of viewing the redemption struggles of others. That makes sense.

That aside, though, it's so weird - and infuriating - when Beck and Erickson are right and Obama and Vilsack are wrong. That never happens. :X

by Nathan Empsall 2010-07-21 02:34AM | 1 recs
RE: Compared to the WH, Glenn Beck appears sympathetic

Seemingly the WH now wants USDA to reconsider. There are some things about this entire episode that I find extremely troubling:

1. Why does the government cater to internet smears? Do they realize that if the same standards were applied to them, none of them would have a job.

2. There are some folks who wants to give the President a pass because he wants to stay above race, but in this case, the President is the employer. How can an employer fire someone purely based on speculation and rumors without an investigation? If she was wrongfully fired, then she has the right to sue the employer for wrongful termination, especially on the trumped up charge of racism.

3. Some even said that the USDA was justified because even the NAACP came to similar conclusion. I did not know that the NAACP was her employer, or that the NAACP was part of the government. The adminsitration fired her because they are cowardly and they would rather mollify the right wing smear machine than fight them.

4. Finally, I always hear unnamed WH sources (a perfect example of how craven they are) complaining about how progressives are not fighting for them. Why would any progressive fight for an administration that NEVER fights for progressives, except offer pablums and half-measures, and are willing to throw anyone under the bus to maintain its image?

by tarheel74 2010-07-21 10:34AM | 0 recs
RE: Compared to the WH, Glenn Beck appears sympathetic

Eric Alterman:

It wasn't so long ago, that liberals were being called "f------ retards" by Rahm Emanuel for refusing to get behind the president's compromises on health care. When they finally did, they were chastised for insufficient enthusiasm for a bill that they were instructed to hold their noses and support.

Ditto financial regulation, which, in many respects, is a gift to Wall Street, not Main Street.

And environmentalists, labor, and feminists have all received not merely nothing, but genuinely regressive rulings by the administration and told to take it and like it.

 

Peter Daou on the divide between the Administration and liberals:

Strikingly, this civil war is premised on a false choice: that an incremental legislative approach and a well-articulated grand ideological vision are mutually exclusive. They're not.

Rapid, sweeping changes may not be feasible in the face of entrenched interests and steely GOP obstructionism, and credit should be given to the president for seeking and achieving solid wins.

But neither is the White House prohibited from standing up for core Democratic ideals and presenting them powerfully and unflinchingly, explaining to the public in clear terms why Democrats have the better plan for America. Nor does the glacial pace of progress in Washington obviate the need to reverse George Bush's radical excesses, something the Obama administration has failed (so far) to do."

by jeopardy 2010-07-21 10:50AM | 0 recs
NAACP backs away from their initial statement

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.

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/07/naacp_backs_off_we_were_snookered.php?ref=fpblg

by tarheel74 2010-07-20 09:08PM | 0 recs
by tarheel74 2010-07-20 09:10PM | 0 recs
WH DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST Ms. Sherrod

A White House official told me just now that the White House backs Vilsack's decision -- but that it was Vilsack's alone. The official said the White House -- contrary to the Sherrod's charge -- did not pressure the Department to fire her.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0710/Official_No_White_House_pressure_on_Sherrod.html?showall

by tarheel74 2010-07-20 09:13PM | 0 recs
RE: WH DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST Ms. Sherrod

I'm pretty angry at Vilsack. Thanks for writing this up.

I just listened to the whole speech. It's a story of redemption. 

Not sure if you know but her husband is Charles Sherrod one of the founders of the Albany Movement, a civil rights group founded in 1961 by the SNCC.

by Charles Lemos 2010-07-21 01:35AM | 1 recs
RE: WH DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST Ms. Sherrod

I did not know that. She definitely seems to have a very interesting life. I found out that her father was killed by a white farmer who was not indicted by a jury then. She basically promised her father that she would never leave the South and do whatever she can to alleviate the lives of Southern blacks.

Now having lived in the South for many years and having married into a very Southern family, let me assure you that there was nothing unusual in the initial encounter she had with farmer Spooner. There is a deep distrust and racial animus in people from that generation. The learning point was that both of them were able to overcome that distrust and work together and become friends. Her speech is the kind of speech about race that we should listen to, the kind of dialogue that we should have. To say that we are in a post-racial world, or that we have moved beyond race is ludicrous. But to cower to people who want to open that scab of racial animus for political gains like Breitbart and the Fox network does, is simply cowardice.

by tarheel74 2010-07-21 09:59AM | 0 recs
Fire Vilsack

Replace him with Shirley Sherrod.

 

"His continuation in office may give the impression of impropriety"

by Ravi Verma 2010-07-21 10:54AM | 0 recs
This time Ms. Sherrod is firing back

Greg Sargent initially had urged caution about judging the role of the WH in the entire fiasco. Since then WH tried to do what it always does, have it's cake and eat it too

From Plumline

People should also demand that the White House weigh in publicly on what happened here. The White House has only discussed this via anonymous leaks, and this morning, officials are conveniently leaking word that the White House prodded Vilsack to reconsider Sherrod's firing. That's nice, but was the White House told in advance that the firing was about to happen, and if so, why did it allow the firing to proceed?

This effort to "distance" the White House from this mess is unsightly at best. This was a major, high-profile screw-up by a cabinet secretary, and as Ben Smith notes this morning, it highlights this White House's tendency to sidestep racial controversies and cede turf to the right's efforts to stoke racial resentment.

Today Tom Vilsack rather pompously stated that he is willing to reconsider her firing (reconsider and not unconditionally reinstate). Shirley Sherrod is not much interested:

Today Show

"I am just not sure how I would be treated there," she said, adding that she couldn't get coworkers to listen to her side of the story about a speech she made in March, edited clips of which were recently shown on a conservative website.

And now she is firing back at Breitbart and Fox News.

She said Fox showed no professionalism in continuing to bother her for an interview, but failing to correct their coverage.

"I think they should but they won't. They intended exactly what they did. They were looking for the result they got yesterday," she said of Fox. "I am just a pawn. I was just here. They are after a bigger thing, they would love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person."

Greg Sargent makes a cynical observation:

Of course, if the White House's goal is to avoid racial controversies, this blast from Sherrod isn't going to make it any easier for them to take a stand and resolve this.

I concur with Greg, this allows them to walk away citing her present hostile feelings for her job and for the right-wing media that they are cow-towing to.

 

by tarheel74 2010-07-21 01:27PM | 0 recs

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