[Vision2020] Say Whut?

Art Deco deco at moscow.com
Tue Jul 20 17:04:18 PDT 2010

NAACP 'snookered' over video of former USDA employee
By the CNN Wire Staff
  a.. NEW: NAACP president tweets that he has apologized to Shirley Sherrod
  b.. NEW: Farmer says Sherrod helped save the farm
  c.. NEW: Conservative publisher says story is "about NAACP attacking the Tea Party"
  d.. Sherrod says her remarks were taken out of context
Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- The NAACP has retracted its original statement condemning comments made by a former Agriculture Department official who resigned after a video clip surfaced of her discussing a white farmer.

The NAACP said in a statement Tuesday that it was "snookered by Fox News" and conservative website publisher Andrew Breitbart.

"Having reviewed the full tape by Shirley Sherrod, who is the woman who was fired by the Department of Agriculture, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe that the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans," the statement from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said.

Jealous later posted on his Twitter account that he "Spoke to Ms. Sherrod earlier today and personally apologized. Plan to meet with her face-to-face the next time I'm in Georgia."

The organization also urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider Sherrod's resignation from her post as the department's director of rural development for Georgia.

Breitbart originally posted the video, which was quickly picked up by Fox News.

In the video, Sherrod, can be heard telling an audience at a March 27, 2009, appearance before a local chapter of the NAACP that she had not given a white farmer "the full force of what I could do" to help him save the family farm.

Conservative media outlets tied the video to the NAACP's recent resolution calling on the Tea Party movement to repudiate racist elements within it that have displayed such items as images of President Obama with a bone through his nose and the White House with a lawn full of watermelons. The controversy has led one Tea Party group to oust another because of a blog posting by the second group's leader.

Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams posted on his blog a faux letter from Jealous to President Abraham Lincoln in which Williams ridicules the organization's use of "colored" in its historic name and uses multiple stereotypes to bolster his point. The National Tea Party Foundation expelled Williams' organization from its coalition as a result.

Breitbart told CNN's "John King USA" on Tuesday that releasing the video was "not about Shirley Sherrod."

"This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party, and this is showing racism at an NAACP event," he said. "I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired."

Sherrod defended herself in a number of interviews Tuesday, saying her controversial comments were taken out of context. She had, she said, used a personal experience from nearly a quarter century ago in which she confronted her own racism and learned to move beyond it.

She insisted she "went all out" to help the man keep his farm and said she resigned only under pressure from the Obama administration, telling CNN she received four phone calls Monday telling her the White House wanted her to step down.

"They asked me to resign, and in fact they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday," she said. The last call "asked me to pull to the side of the road and do it [resign]," she said.

Vilsack told CNN on Tuesday that he "didn't speak to anyone at the White House. ... I made this decision, it's my decision. Nobody from the White House contacted me about this at all."

A White House official also told CNN that "the White House did not pressure her or the USDA over the resignation. It was the secretary's decision, as he has said."

President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation after Vilsack decided to seek Sherrod's resignation, according to a White House official, who said the president fully supports the decision.

Sherrod said Tuesday that the incident with the farmer in 1986 occurred before she started work for the USDA and was working at the nonprofit Federation of Southern Cooperatives. She said the experience helped her learn to move beyond race and she tells the story to audiences to make that point.

Meanwhile, the farmer referenced in the clip told CNN he credits Sherrod with helping his family save their farm.

"I don't know what brought up the racist mess," Roger Spooner told CNN's "Rick's List." "They just want to stir up some trouble, it sounds to me in my opinion."

Spooner says Sherrod accompanied him and his wife to a lawyer in Americus, Georgia, who was able to help them file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which ultimately saved their farm.

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

Spooner's wife, Eloise, remembered Sherrod as "nice-mannered, thoughtful, friendly; a good person."

She said that when she saw the story of the tape and Sherrod's resignation on television, "I said, 'That ain't right. They have not treated her right.' "

The poor-quality video shows Sherrod telling her audience that the farmer she was working with "took a long time ... trying to show me he was superior to me." As a result, she said, she "didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."

To prove she had done her job, she said, she took him to a white lawyer. "I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him," she said.

But that lawyer failed to help, she said. "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." She was able to find an attorney to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy to help the family stay on the farm, she said.

Sherrod said she first heard of the possible controversy when someone e-mailed her Thursday to taunt her about her comments. She immediately forwarded the e-mail to the USDA so the agency would be aware. She was told that someone would look into it.

She said it wasn't until Monday that she heard back, and by then, she was being asked for her resignation.

Sherrod said she got four calls Monday from Cheryl Cook, the USDA rural development undersecretary. In the first, she said, she was told she was being put on administrative leave. In the second, she said, she was told she needed to resign.

Asked if she felt she had an opportunity to explain, Sherrod said, "No, I didn't. The administration, they were not interested in hearing the truth. No one wanted to hear the truth."

Vilsack said Tuesday that the controversy, regardless of the context of her comments, "compromises the director's ability to do her job."

"This isn't a situation where we are necessarily judgmental about the content of the statement, that's not the issue here. I don't believe this woman is a racist at all," he said. "She's a political appointee, and her job is basically to focus on job growth in Georgia, and I have deep concern about her ability to do her job without her judgments being second-guessed."

Ralph Paige, executive director of the nonprofit Sherrod worked for before being appointed to the USDA job in 2009, told CNN on Tuesday that she garnered only praise and there were never any claims of discrimination against her.

"I can't praise Shirley enough," he said. "She holds no malice in her heart."

Vilsack issued a statement Monday announcing he had accepted Sherrod's resignation, noting a "zero tolerance" policy for discrimination at the USDA, adding, "I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person."

The first statement that the NAACP issued late Monday backed Vilsack's decision.

"Racism is about the abuse of power. 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," Jealous said. "We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."

Sherrod said the NAACP did not contact her before issuing the first statement. She said she got a phone call from an NAACP representative in Washington on Tuesday afternoon telling her another statement would be issued once the full tape was reviewed.

"I told him I was highly disappointed that they would make a statement without even looking into it," she said.

In the statement issued Tuesday evening, the NAACP reversed its condemnation after viewing the full video.

"She was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption," the statement said. "In the full video, Ms. Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about 'haves and have nots.' 'It's not just about black people, it's about poor people,' says Sherrod in the speech. 'We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn't matter.' "

Earlier Tuesday, Sherrod called the NAACP "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."

She called the ensuing controversy "unbelievable."

"I think any moment I'm going to wake up and none of this is happening, but it is," she said.

"When you spend your life helping others and see people try to turn that around to try to make it look like you're a racist when that's not been what your life has been about -- that doesn't feel good."

CNN's Tristan Smith, Joneil Adriano and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Andreas Schou 
  To: Glenn Schwaller 
  Cc: vision2020 
  Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 3:17 PM
  Subject: Re: [Vision2020] Say Whut?

  Glenn --

  The video is edited to give exactly the opposite impression that the
  speaker intended to give. Additionally, the story is set twenty-four
  years in the past, not in her current job.

  -- ACS

  On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 1:25 PM, Glenn Schwaller <vpschwaller at gmail.com> wrote:
  > (“I was) faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm. . . I
  > was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their
  > farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save
  > their land. I didn't give him the full force of what I could do."
  > Shirley Sherrod, USDA, Georgia
  > GS
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