MEET SHIRLEY SHERROD…. It looked like Breitbart and the Big Government website had gotten the goods on another one of their enemies. But as is often the case, there’s more to this one than meets the eye.
The story involves USDA official Shirley Sherrod, the director of regional development in Georgia. She spoke recently at an NAACP event, and Big Government posted a portion of her remarks. As far as the far-right site is concerned, Sherrod “admitted” that she’s used her “federally appointed position” to “discriminate against people due to their race.”
At first blush, the allegations almost seem fair. The video shows Sherrod talking about a deliberate decision not to help a white farmer because she was “struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land.”
Obviously, we can’t have administration officials engaged in this kind of behavior, so Sherrod was forced to resign — a decision initially endorsed by the NAACP, which called Sherrod’s remarks “shameful.”*
You can probably tell there’s a “but” coming. In this case, the conservative Big Government site showed the part of the speech it wanted people to see, and Fox News to air.
Jay Bookman notes today that there’s relevant information and context Breitbart’s project didn’t offer.
…Sherrod said what online viewers weren’t told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.
Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with the farmer and his wife.
“And I went on to work with many more white farmers,” she said. “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.”
In fact, as it turns out, Sherrod worked so hard to help that white farmer and his family they consider her a “friend for life.”
Somehow, this didn’t make the cut in the Big Government clip. The far-right site has the entire video, but only released the part that served the right’s purposes.
And in this case, the right’s purposes are trying to spur racial animosity, taking the remarks of an African-American American official to the NAACP and removing the context, all in the hopes of generating white resentment.
The anti-ACORN crusade — and its creative editing — should have been the first clue that right-wing video clips released by Breitbart and Big Government may not be what they seem to be. Shirley Sherrod offers another painful reminder.
* Update: Today, the NAACP walked back yesterday’s criticism, and is reportedly investigating the matter.