Georgia Agricultural Official Resigns After Controversial Speech at NAACP Conference

Conservative bloggers are expressing outrage over comments at the recent NAACP conference made by Georgia director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod. After watching the video, I think they have good reason to be outraged. While Sherrod has claimed that the remarks were “misconstrued.” While Media Matters has raised valid concerns over the fairness of the view as edited, the comments still contain racist elements. She has now resigned.

The video has surfaced after NAACP accused Tea Party member of racism and the Tea Party severing of ties with one of its founders over a racist rant.

This video shows Sherrod recounted “the first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm” and how she viewed the farmer as trying to be “superior” to her while she controlled the money for such farmers.

“He had to come to me for help. What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him . . . I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land — so I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.”

She notes that, to avoid any later complaints, she said she took him to see “one of his own” — a white lawyer” “I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.”

UPDATE: the NAACP denounced the comments but has now retracted the original statement below.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, while condemning her recent comments, had earlier praised her selection. However, even after the retraction of the earlier NAACP statement, Vilsack stood by his decision on the need for the resignation. The next day, however, Vilsack said he would review the decision.

Yesterday, Andrew Breitbart released heavily-edited video of a speech that Shirley Sherrod, then-USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development gave at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia this year. Breitbart writes that in the video, “this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.”

Media Matters has responded to the story and accused Breitbart of misleading people on the story — insisting that the video is heavily edited. They note that Sherrod was telling a story she had described took place decades ago when she worked for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund. The video reportedly excluded the fact that Sherrod spoke of how she went on to work with and befriend the man. She is quoted as saying at the end of the story: “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.”

This account is supported by the farmer’s wife who credited Sherrod with saving their land.

That is indeed redeeming, but I am not sure it rectifies the problem given the shocking first part of the story. UPDATE: there could be legal consequences to the editing of this tape as discussed in a later blog. The story suggests that (assuming this was reportedly roughly 20 years ago), these were her sentiments in 1986. That is pretty shocking even if she did ultimately help the farmer and overcome such racial issues. Nevertheless, the retraction should force Breitbart and others to come forward to explain why the end of the story was clearly removed to avoid the mitigating material.

Below is the full original statement from the NAACP:

July 20, 2010
NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement today after a careful investigation into the presentation of former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod.

The NAACP has a zero tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by blacks, whites, or any other group.

The NAACP also has long championed and embraced transformation by people who have moved beyond racial bias. Most notably, we have done so for late Alabama Governor George Wallace and late US Senator Robert Byrd — each a man who had associated with and supported white supremacists and their cause before embracing civil rights for all.

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.

Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.

Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about “haves and have nots.” “It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people,” says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

This is a teachable moment, for activists and for journalists.

Most Americans agree that racism has no place in American Society. We also believe that civil and human rights have to be measured by a single yardstick.

The NAACP has demonstrated its commitment to live by that standard.

The Tea Party Federation took a step in that direction when it expelled the Tea Party Express over the weekend. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from other leaders in the Tea Party movement like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, who have been virtually silent on the “internal bigotry” issue.

Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.

According to the USDA, Sherrod’s statements prompted her dismissal. While we understand why Secretary Vilsack believes this false controversy will impede her ability to function in the role, we urge him to reconsider.

Finally, we hope this incident will heighten Congress’s urgency in dealing with the well documented findings of discrimination toward black, Latino, Asian American and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races.

75 thoughts on “Georgia Agricultural Official Resigns After Controversial Speech at NAACP Conference”

  1. An unrepentant Christophobic brown-supremacist hate-monger has room to talk?

    Wow, even BDAman (were he around) would admire that piece of masterful trolling. That’s the “Size 3 silver Blue Fox” of the internet.

  2. Now that the complete comments by Ms. Sherrod have been revealed, they show she still has racial “issues”.

    Republicans went bizerk, up/to and including, impeaching president Bill Clinton and that is how much disagreement and dissent he had with them.

    Why did Republicans do that? Because he was a black guy? LOL

    No. The only reason Ms. Sherrod could be accusing Republicans of being racists IS BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE. Like Obama jumping to the conclusion Professor Gates was arrested because the cop was white, Republicans are being accused solely BECAUSE they are white. There is no other explanation.

    It is Ms. Sherrod’s own view of white people that led her to make those comments about why Republicans were opposing Obama. And their treatment (worse treatment to some) of Clinton demonstrates it.

    She did not redeem herself by her confession. She only showed she still has more to learn.

    There may have been some sloppy journalism on the right, but it only compliments the sloppy journalism on the left. That is why the internet is so vital. It causes everyone to be more cautious.

  3. Buddha:

    An unrepentant Christophobic brown-supremacist hate-monger has room to talk?

    It is wonderful when freedom of association is upheld. I know it disturbs crazy people on the left and causes them to become more dangerous than rabid dogs.

    I would also support the right of private schools to bar children whose parents are carrying on adulterous affairs, or mothers who are prostitutes, or single parents having sex out of marriage.

    I support the right of businesses to deny job positions to any members of all these groups.

  4. Breitbart is the perfect embodiment of Twain’s observation that “a lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.” Glad he ended up getting kicked in the ass over this.

  5. Prof Turley. Srsly. Just do the right thing here. I know it hurtz. Just do it anywayz.

  6. Tootles,

    Listen up, Mrs. “This is wonderful” a child was denied her choice in school because of her parent’s sexual orientation.

    You should be the last one to say squat about “half-reformed” any damn thing being an unrepentant homophobic bigot such as you are. But then again, you’ve time and again demonstrated the only thing half way about you is your wit.

  7. Actually, the woman appears to only be a half-reformed racist.

    She accuses political opponents of being racists just because Obama is black (and the critics are white, ergo HER racism).

    According to her own standard, that is.

  8. Typical Fox News how could anyone watch that channel It is such a shame they ruined this woman’s name, and no mater the facts some people will still think she is a racist..

  9. I put full faith and credit in the Prof and I look forward to all future postings. I love this blog.

  10. This incident and resulting resignation is the textbook example of “politics” at its best. The Tea Party and the NAACP trying to “one-up” each other and an innocent bystander gets caught in the middle. Her message is misconstrued, taken out of context and used as a prop.

    I can now understand her hesitancy to accept any position offered to be by the USDA. Eventhough, she still puts her support behind the administration, she definitely has to question the methods by which it was determined she should resign. Who’s to say this won’t happen again to her, to anyone, in any job, anywhere in the world.

    PEOPLE don’t think before they act! It’s as simple as that. We’re all guilty. We need to step back and remember these situations, we need to “learn” from these situations. The media and organizations can put out whatever message they want people to hear and tune it so that it speaks on their behalf. PEOPLE need to be smarter than that. We are smarter than that!

  11. It appears you were duped just like so many others Professor. The whole point of the story was that the woman learned that it isn’t about race and that she had learned that her prior biases, many years ago, were unjustified. Far from being racist, her story was about overcoming prejudice and seeing the person—not the race.

  12. eniobob

    Seeing as you were able to post the You Tube video of the white farmer and his wife supporting Sherrod, could you post the full 43 minute video of Sherrod’s speech? Raw story has it at this link.

  13. Yeah Tootles, completely ignore that the disinformation was created and distributed by a known right wing operative, you partisan hack. The “leftist media” is just another one of your fairy tales.

  14. pete:

    Everyone makes mistakes. The NY Times does. So does PBS. Shall Mr. Turley ignore them too? We live in a 24/7 world of reporting and things move fast. Sometimes too fast.

    There is plenty room for apologies and reconciliation without making only right-wing outlets guilty of things left-wing outlets do.

    Remember the Dan Rather business when Rather presented forged documents to the public as being legitimate? That seems to be worse than this flap.

    How about the new claims that the left-wing media conspired on behalf of Democrat goals, to manipulate the information flow of stories it wishes to see not presented to the public?

    Read about that here:

    The problem with the leftist media, for most of my life, is not that it gets the facts wrong (they are usually always correct), but that it filters the facts (like loyal Communists do). They present the facts in a propagandist manner.

    If we go by your standard, or one similar to it, then all the major media outlets should be shunned and not quoted or cited.

    Actually, that is sort of happening. The old media is dying and its treachery to truth is partly responsible for that.

    Which is why the Democrats talk about propping up the old media. They need the leftist deceptions to continue as they have for the past 50 years.

  15. pete,

    Don’t be too hard on the Prof.

    That asshat Breitbart fooled the NAACP and the USDA too, both of which have a lot more heads than one and hands than two. The guy is a cancer upon the system.

  16. Ben Masel said @ 1, July 20, 2010 at 9:40 am

    “Sounds to me more a ‘how I grew out of my prejudices, and you can too’ speech.”

    It appears this woman should be rehired as her comments were taken out of context. It seems (if I understand it correctly) that she was criticizing herself for being racially motivated in her official government decisions and she is honestly telling people how she corrected herself and looked beyond race.

    This is a good thing.

    If democrats hadn’t made the word “white” a cuss word, and idiot republicans had not gone along with it, perhaps people wouldn’t be so quick to jerk their knees when people frankly and without animus discuss racial issues (which are real and not necessarily threatening).

  17. As a fan of this site and Prof Turley I am greatly dismayed to see him take the bait set out by Breitbart. I hope he is among the many that will no longer lend any credibility to such right wing hackery.
    thank you

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