Vilsack to reconsider Sherrod firing

VILSACK TO RECONSIDER SHERROD FIRING…. The full video of Shirley Sherrod’s remarks to the NAACP in March has been posted, and there is no longer any doubt that she’s been treated unfairly. Indeed, far from being offensive, the video is actually quite endearing — we hear from a Southern, African-American woman overcoming division and racial acrimony to do the right thing, learning a valuable lesson about helping families in need.

Fox News pointed to the truncated video as “Exhibit A” of “what racism looks like.” That’s backwards — it’s a heart-warming example of someone rising above racism. Her remarks weren’t offensive; the right-wing scheme to destroy her is.

Andrew Breitbart’s initial claim that the video is “evidence of racism” is the exact opposite of reality. The only way to smear Sherrod is to remove every shred of relevant context, which is exactly what the right-wing Big Government website did. Two days after the edited, misleading clip was pushed onto the national scene, with the intention of destroying Sherrod’s credibility, the video has backfired — destroying the credibility of those who went on the attack.

The NAACP, which initially endorsed Sherrod’s forced resignation on Monday, has since changed its mind. Late yesterday, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous conceded in a statement that his organization was “snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart.”

It’s time for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to acknowledge he made the same mistake. As of this morning, he’s at least willing to do what he should have done Monday — take a closer look at the facts.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday he will reconsider the department’s decision to oust a black employee over racially tinged remarks after learning more about what she said.

Vilsack issued a short statement early Wednesday morning…. “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,” Vilsack said.

Look, there’s an obvious path for the secretary to follow here. Vilsack made a mistake when he fell for a right-wing con. It happens. The Agriculture Department has an unfortunate history when it comes to race and discrimination, and in his drive to improve the agency, Vilsack overreacted, not realizing just how deceptive conservative smear campaigns can be.

It’s a forgivable offense — if the secretary puts things right quickly, acknowledges his error, and begs Sherrod to come back to work.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.