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Friday, July 23, 2010

Just the Facts, Please. NAACP Director, The White House, and Congress Member Speak On Shirley Sherrod Incident

Call Shirley Sherrod Firing A Mistake.

When the viral video of Shirley Sherrod hit the Internet earlier this week, people called Sherrod, a Black woman - accused of not helping a white farmer lose his farm -  a racist. 

Tea Party member Andrew Breitbart. Video editor and fire starter.

As we now know, the video didn't show the entire story.  The story that Sherrod, a product of the racist, segregated Georgia South, has been a crusader championing the cause for equal rights her whole adult life.

Sherrod was fired from her job as an official with the US Department of Agriculture, and received from the agency's Tom Vilsack scathing remarks.  (He has since retracted them).

Said Vilsack,  "This is a good woman." She has been put through hell. I could have done and should have done a better job."

But Vilsack wasn't the only person in this firestorm of attacks on Sherrod.  The NAACP, once they saw the video, also acted in kind saying, "We have a zero tolerance policy for racism, of any kind", and also denounced the ousted USDA official."

We spoke with NAACP Director Hiliary Shelton, who, on a CNN special said the NAACP was "snookered" into believing what was on a video clip that was later found to have been taken out of context.

"It was really sad, that you had someone that was so maliciously edited the words of such a good woman at an NAACP event with the intent of impugning the NAACP and smearing the administration", Shelton told us.

NAACP Director Hilary Shelton at an event at the Ronald Reagan Building this week.  Photo/CD Brown.

"What’s more shameful is that this individual acted with collusion with FOX television, and FOX News. So this wasn’t something that came through as pundits talk about their views all the time this was reported as a news item. Someone very slickly manipulated the video tape through I guess their computer editing process and actually created this kind of problem that they did. The upside is it exposes this guy who considered himself a member of Tea Party and the antics of the Tea Party shows how discriminatory and how problematic they really are, and quite frankly, how uncivilized they are in promoting this kind of mayhem", said Shelton.

The NAACP has also issued an apology to Ms. Sherrod and has asked for a reconsideration in order Sherrod to regain her position with the USDA.

We also spoke to members of Congress who gave us their remarks on the event.

"I’ve had the opportunity to get up to speed on what happened with Ms. Sherrod", said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. "And I think all of those who criticized her, who doubted her, who fired her, have to step back. Not only reassess what they did, but they’ve got to make it right. I hope that they are grateful enough to offer her job back."

Said Congressman J.C. Watt, "Obviously, they started out with misinformation on the totality of what was going on. And probably took a premature position and now they’ve seen the wisdom of correcting their premature position and we hope the Dept of Agriculture sees the wisdom of correcting its premature decision."

What a difference 24 little hours makes.  What an even bigger difference getting truth makes.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Mrs. Sherrod is owed an apology.  "If we learn anything, everybody involved made a determination without knowing the facts."   Saying of the mishap, "A disservice was done.  An apology is owed."

The White House has made good on that apology, although no official White House invitation has been extended to Ms. Sherrod.

The apology comes one year to the day that President Obama invited Henry Louis Gates to the White House for a beer after a police incident found Gates being arrested for being inside his own home.

Sherrod has accepted apologies from both the White House and USDA's Vilsack.  No apology from the video's vicious editor, Andrew Brietbart.

If nothing else, both of these stories, and others like them, have one thing in common.   They both show harmless people being made victims of a much larger institutional anomaly that still prevails - proving yet again, that in America, race matters.

Full Shirley Sherrod NAACP video can be seen here.

The Sherrod story brought to light the plight of Black Farmers who still have not been awarded the $1.5B owed to them from a racial discrimination lawsuit with the US Department of Agriculture.

"Well, we’re hoping that this will incentivize the Senate to go ahead and move on the funding to fund the settlement and you never know, in politics, what the straw is that will move something [to action] so at the end of the day, perhaps this will serve some useful purpose", said Congressman Mel Watt.

NAACP's Hilary Shelton told us the NAACP has sided with the plight of the Black Farmers since the beginning.

"We testfied and supported their initiative before Federal District court when they filed the Pigford suit in the first place.  We supported those initiatives through the Congress to receive the funding we needed with the Pigford I settlement.  We realize the some farmers have been locked out and we continue to work with organizations like the Black Farmers Association, and with Black farmers themselves, to make sure Pigford II is passed to extend the eligibility to farmers that got left out of the first Pickford settlement.

Shelton said the NAACP is working now with the Department of Agriculture, who he says, recognizes and supports the $1.5B settlement owed to Black Famers.

"The issue for us is making sure the House and Senate support appropriating the funds to pay the farmers what they're due."

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