Now that the dust is settling in the mess involving Shirley Sherrod, the former U.S. Department of Agriculture director of Rural Development in Georgia who made controversial comments regarding race and class in a speech before the NAACP, a few things stand out that are worth remarking on:
The first is that blogger Andrew Breitbart in his initial post about Sherrod was incorrect in stating that the actions she described in her story took place while Sherrod was an employee of the federal government. He also should have been more clear that it was the NAACP’s cheering of her initial racist sentiments that was his primary target.
Breitbart also should have done better to put Sherrod’s previous racist behavior in the past with his writing but to impute, as David Frum does, that the full clip told “exactly the opposite of the story Breitbart had wanted to tell,” is patently false considering that Breitbart did in fact state that in the end Sherrod’s “basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help.”
Frum and many of Breitbart’s critics are clearly suffering from reading comprehension problems.
(Speaking of the full clip of Sherrod’s remarks, the NAACP still has not released the full tape of her speech. As Kate Pickert at Time.com notes, the video that is being called the “full” video actually is edited around the 21-minute mark, a particularly crucial point in her story as she describes abandoning black-white thinking. I have no idea whether the edit, which is clearly visible, is material or not. )
Another false idea being put out there, including by Sherrod herself, is the notion that Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, or any other Fox News Channel host had anything to do with Sherrod’s resignation. She had resigned before any of them talked about her at all. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her producers also appear to have manufactured false clips purportedly showing FNC to be covering the Sherrod controversy before she had resigned.
All that said, however, Sherrod seems to have been the victim of a White House eager to swipe anything remotely connected to race under the rug (almost exactly one year after the Henry Louis Gates arrest incidentally). In part, the administration was following the lead of many bloggers who, as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air notes, did not pay attention to the full details of the story and how Sherrod’s racist actions had since been discarded.
The moment is a unique one considering how rarely the White House ever listens to anything that conservatives and libertarians get upset about. Were the administration to do so, it would not have pushed its health care or financial regulation agenda items, for instance.
Finally it’s worth noting that no one seems to be concerned that despite the fact that Sherrod seems to have abandoned racially discriminatory governance, she seems instead to have wholly embraced old-guard class warfare:
“Well, working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t, you know. And they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people — those who don’t have access the way others have.”
Is that really what the purpose of working for rural development should be? How about just making life better for everyone?
Update 14:30. Sherrod is now calling for the shutdown of Breitbart’s site Big Government. Way to turn the other cheek!
Update 14:33. Dan Riehl hits the nail on the head regarding the NAACP and the false idea that they deserve no blame:
At approximately 17 minutes into the now-released full video of the event, Sherrod can be heard relaying a tale from her past in which she initially failed to help a white farmer with the full effort she would reserve for a black farmer. The assembled crowd of card-carrying members of the NAACP took great pleasure in that, their laughter was not nervous at all. That is a contemporaneous expression of racism by today’s politically correct standards, not racism from some 40 years ago. [...] Breitbart’s web-posting of the speech showed more racism at one NAACP event than those charging Republicans and Tea Parties with racism have yet to produce after making accusations for months on end. The people making that charge include both Sherrod and the NAACP, neither of which has produced any proof. But it is Breitbart who should be convicted for false charges in the court of public opinion? That is totally absurd given the actual facts.
Update 14:46. I’m informed via Twitter from ABC’s Jake Tapper that the edit I mentioned above in the “full video” of Sherrod is claimed by the NAACP to have been merely a tape change and not a deliberate edit to alter the context of her remarks.
Update 14:55. Kudos to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz for doing due diligence to expose the Fox-made-Sherrod-resign falsehood.