Shirley Sherrod, a midlevel, African-American, Agriculture Department employee, was forced to resign her position last Monday after a video had surfaced of controversial portions of a speech she gave at a NAACP meeting.
In her remarks, Ms. Sherrod said that she had at one time discriminated against a white farmer, who had requested her help when she had been serving as director of a nonprofit group in Georgia. Andrew Breitbart, who runs the Big Government.com blog, posted the video excerpt containing this seemingly damning admission of racial preference, which was run on the “O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity’s America” on Monday evening.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had sent the orders leading to Ms. Sherrod’s resignation, although she claimed that the pressure to resign came directly from the White House. Even the NAACP itself condemned the remarks and backed the decision to force Ms. Sherrod out, even though it had the entire video in its possession all along.
After belatedly examining the entire video in its possession, the NAACP did an about-face. It realized that the excerpted remarks had been taken out of context from Ms. Sherrod’s larger speech in which she was trying to use her mishandling of the white farmer many years before to illustrate what she had done wrong in judging the poor farmer on account of his race instead of his economic condition.
The Obama administration was then forced to scramble. After they realized how they had rushed the decision to get rid of Ms. Sherrod before they had all of the facts, Vilsack and the White House profusely apologized to Ms. Sherrod and offered to reinstate her.
Bill O’Reilly also ate some crow and apologized for demanding her resignation without doing his “homework” first.
Based on that chain of events, the Times ran a story today making the entire episode a lesson on how bad the conservative bloggers and talk show hosts behaved.
The controversy illustrates the influence of right-wing Web sites like the one run by Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who initially posted the misleading and highly edited video…Fox News began its pursuit of Ms. Sherrod in prime time on Monday night on three successive opinion shows.
As the Times admitted, Ms. Sherrod was forced out before either the “O’Reilly Factor” or Hannity’s show had even aired. Yet instead of focusing on the rush to judgment by the inept Obama administration – which claims that it does not give any heed to what Fox News has to say in making its decisions – the Times has made the story all about those awful right-wing commentators who supposedly were in hot “pursuit” of Ms. Sherrod.