Of Shirley Sherrod and Edited YouTube Clips

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Washington Post political reporter Krissah Thompson discusses the case of Shirley Sherrod, Agriculture Department employee who was fired for racially tinged comments that appeared in a video posted online. The Agriculture Department is now reconsidering the firing after revelations that the original video was edited and possibly misleading.

The controversial video was an edited version, here is the full video of Sherrod's remarks.

Comments [42]


Usually when a person gets fired, there is a string of incidents that precede a final decision. How well was she doing her job in general? The rush to judgment may have been based on a history of actions and attitudes that made the administration jump to conclusions with regard to this one incident. This question was not addressed in this segment at all.

Jul. 23 2010 08:03 PM
rose from riverdale, ny

where is the backlash and outrage about the pond-scum sucking website site that set up this entire fiasco?

the dog in this charade is andrew breitbart and his smear site big government.

talk about conservative-repug dirty tricks.

be well

riverdale, ny

Jul. 21 2010 04:35 PM

The term for this sort action used to be 'character assassination' and it was widely shunned. The guy who reedited the tape has done this before in the ACORN scandal. The intentional public distortion ought to be the issue (and the story) but probably won't be. I do find it shocking that the Obama Administration is so cowed by the Right that they cave at the slightest push. Principle doesn't bend with the slightest breeze.

Jul. 21 2010 02:20 PM

When I heard this story I thought is this the same division that has treated black farmers poorly consistently, while looking out for the interests of white farmers; meanwhile black farmers have been losing farms for decades due to rising legal costs and wrongdoing on behalf of the USDA. If ever a situation called for "rolling heads" it would be this.

Jul. 21 2010 12:31 PM
okpokwasili from Brooklyn, NY

Breitbart is now trying to keep the focus on "racist" response from the NAACP audience. Anyone who has every been in a black church or in a call and response situation (because the audience already understood the context of the story and that it would be one of redemption) they seem to acknowledge that they have felt the same way. There's a big response from them when she talks about deciding how much help she's going to give the white farmer's the truth! If your father was discriminated against and murdered by white people and you continue to work in the south and face a legacy of government sanctioned disempowerment and disenfranchisement, when the tables are turned are you going to repeat those discriminatory behaviors? It seems to me the audience acknowledges that generally we won't choose to live righteously when faced with that power reversal.

And my other point is that even if you could make a case that the NAACP people in the audience (if members were the only ones in attendance at that banquet) were racist in their responses, they were at least given a chance to hear the entire speech and would I hope be chastened and reflective in the face of their own "knee-jerk" racism.

And the saddest part of this is that Breitbart is looking to play "gotcha" with the NAACP, instead of figuring out how to keep the people holding signs of President Obama with a bone through his nose, eating watermelons on the white house lawn, or with his face on a chimpanzee, from popping up at tea party rallies. Those are clearly the "elements" the NAACP would like to see repudiated by the national leaders of the Tea Party Movement.

Sorry that this is so long.

Jul. 21 2010 12:10 PM
Edward from NJ

Regarding Karen from NYC's earlier point, this rhetorical structure of sin and redemption should be familiar to any Evangelical Christian regardless of their race.

Jul. 21 2010 11:34 AM
Norman from NYC

BTW, one of the ACORN workers said that after O'Keefe left his office, he called the police. The police found out it wasn't real, and dropped the investigation.

He just sued the people who circulated the video about him.

Jul. 21 2010 11:32 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Sounds like the whole brou-ha-ha makes for great ratings.

Jul. 21 2010 11:29 AM
Steve from Bronx

Don't you think that attacking the administration is blaming the victim? Is the bar for the right wing in this country set so low that no one rebukes the original unfair smear?

Jul. 21 2010 11:28 AM
Mason from Jackson Heights

It is suprising to me that people do not realize or understand that racism was created by the colonist to prevent white endentured servants from joining forces with black slaves. The colonist had created such horrible conditions for these groups which out numbered the them that they developed racism as a way to keep these groups from uniting. This is also the origins of the 2nd Admendment

Jul. 21 2010 11:28 AM
Jessica from Queens

If you listen carefully to her comments, she is not saying, exactly, that the issue is the haves vs. the have-nots as opposed to black versus white. Sherrod remarks that race is a factor, but that class, she seems to imply, is at least in her work more fundamental. Of course, it's all very complex - let's not neutralize race by using class to trump race. Instead, we should strive to understand how race and class intersect in situations such as the one Sherrod described with the poor white farmer.

Jul. 21 2010 11:27 AM
suzanne from NYC

I support Shirley Sherrod. For Gods Sakes.
What white boys are trying to ease her out of office. Can you blame her reasoning after how we've (I'm white) treated black people?

That caller named Miriam had a great question. How come they wanted her out so fast just from a snippet of her talk? Out of context?

Thank you for covering this story. What a terrific resource your show and this station is! Wow. We are lucky to have NPR!

Jul. 21 2010 11:27 AM
Larry from NYC-UWS

Doesn't she have any recourse to sue Breitbart for libel or slander, or the USDA for lack of an investigation, for the loss of her job? Sounds to me like she does.

Jul. 21 2010 11:26 AM
Norman from NYC

Gates was illegally arrested, don't forget.

Under Massachusetts law, you can only disturb the peace in public -- it's impossible to disturb the peace in the privacy of your own home.

Jul. 21 2010 11:24 AM
keith from nyc

The person who doctored and circulated the tape to manipulate the press, and pull the wool over our eyes, who knowingly misled the citizens of this country, that evil minded person, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and if there is not a sufficient penalty, a new law should be made to punish those who would so irresponsibly manipulate our public for political purposes. It's a form of treason. It's undemocratic to create falsehood.

Jul. 21 2010 11:24 AM
John from office.

Karen I write fast because I am working. I have a job.

Her diction was terrible and if she were white and used words like them and how they act etc, Brian would be through the roof. But it is ok for blacks to be racist.

Your response to me shows the left at its best, threaten the person your don't agree with.

Jul. 21 2010 11:24 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

An honest and brave discussion of one (good) woman's intellectual and spiritual evolution. I give her a lot of credit for being so open as I am sure a lot of people, regardless of race, can relate to and learn from her story.

It's disappointing and alarming that her employer (the US Government) would not do a proper investigation. This is also a disturbing sign of the times: "YouTube Journalism".

Jul. 21 2010 11:23 AM
Sandra from Astoria

The criminals in the Bush administration were creating scandals on a weekly basis, yet they never backed down. In fact, they would go on the offensive and turn it around on the accusers.

Why is the Obama administration (and Dems in general) so quick to back down and cave in, such as in this case and Van Jones?

Like another poster said, the right really has mastered the art of bullying.

Jul. 21 2010 11:22 AM
Norman from NYC

The last black woman the moderate Democrats fired like that was Joycelyn Elders.

Jul. 21 2010 11:22 AM

Yet another dishonest and selective use of footage for ideological gain. And shame on the knee jerk reaction by the USDA and NAACP because the fear the braying class.

Also, it is so great to see Ms. Sherrod's insight that is is about the "haves" vs. the "have nots." Few things scare the "haves" more than the possibility that the poor and working poor will will set aside race differences and unite in the face of economic injustice. That is why the likes of the Fox News hot air machines trot it out so much. It is a direct threat to their comfortable and privileged positions.

Jul. 21 2010 11:22 AM
JaredB from Park Slope

I can't believe that she was fired for this. Ms. Sherrod's story is about a person in power overcoming prejudice and looking past another person's racism to help people in need.

I also watched the ACORN video, which certainly displayed some very bad judgment on the part of ACORN workers. But if you watch the whole video, you will see that the conservative activists went to the ACORN office with a story about domestic abuse and a woman trying to escape from prostitution. The activists played on ACORN sympathies toward the disenfranchised and when this wasn't sufficient to get them to do something unethical, they began to change their story to include less savory elements. Later portrayals of the video usually fail to mention how the activists represented themselves to ACORN and falsely claim that the male activist represented himself to be a pimp. In fact, he claimed to be some sort of student. The pimp thing appears to be based on the stereotypical 70s pimp clothes.the guy wore in the staged scene after the ACORN interview, which was intended to be 'ironic" no doubt.

Jul. 21 2010 11:22 AM
John from Brooklyn

The sad thing is that when Breitbart pulls the same stunt again, the media and the administration will take it at face value without any investigation. They will have learned nothing.

Jul. 21 2010 11:20 AM
Benny from UES

Barack Obama and his administration should be ashamed of themselves. How are we supposed to rise above such ignorance and intolerance.

This is typical right wing behavior. Take something they are guilty of and blame the left and minorities for it.

Jul. 21 2010 11:20 AM
Jeremiah Marcus from Inwood

My question is this:
How many times does it have to be unequivocally shown that an individual (or an entire news network!) is trying to game the system, using slant so steep that it easily qualifies as outright lying, before they are no longer considered reliable sources. The responsible media needs to be just that--responsible--and check more carefully into stories before reporting them. Or at least make appropriate corrections when it becomes clear that stories were erroneous (for ex. NY Times and the ACORN-pimp & prostitute episode).

Jul. 21 2010 11:19 AM
Norman from NYC


"Well, the people with money, the elite, decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them."

Jul. 21 2010 11:17 AM
Karen from NYC

John from the office: I'm an English teacher, and if you persist in suggesting that blacks are stupid and illiterate, I'm going to start posting corrections of your misspelled, ungrammatical comments.

Jul. 21 2010 11:17 AM
john from office

This is the best of the black community??

Jul. 21 2010 11:16 AM
IC from NY

People that rush to judge and go to the extreme of firing people or accusing people of faults before hearing the entire situation are the very ones that should be fired!

Jul. 21 2010 11:16 AM
The Truth from Becky

Why are we not addressing the illegal editing and sabotage of the original tape??!

Jul. 21 2010 11:16 AM
Chris from Manhattan

Honestly, I'm so disappointed that the administration didn't get the full story before acting. That would seem to be a basic management practice. Especially since this came from the right. Vilsack is conducting an investigation about the cart before the horse.

Jul. 21 2010 11:16 AM
Norman from NYC

Why shouldn't we fire Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, for taking this action without getting the facts first?

Jul. 21 2010 11:15 AM
Karen from NYC

This video portrays a classic example of "witnessing"; i.e., a narrative of conversion, or sin and redemption. Anyone who take it literally, or sees it as a evidence of professional dereliction, has never read a book or been to an African-American church.

It's a little sermon, meant to teach a lesson.

Right-wingers are so *$(# stupid, ignorant and uncivilized. And so much for the bureaucrats who cowered.

Jul. 21 2010 11:15 AM
CT from Harlem

Wow, this woman deserves a GIGANTIC apology.

Jul. 21 2010 11:14 AM
Karen from NYC

This video portrays a classic example of "witnessing"; i.e., a narrative of conversion, or sin and redemption. Anyone who take it literally, or sees it as a evidence of professional dereliction, has never read a book or been to an African-American church.

It's a little sermon, meant to teach a lesson.

Right-wingers are so *$(# stupid, ignorant and uncivilized. And so much for the bureaucrats who cowered.

Jul. 21 2010 11:14 AM
John from office

Brian, if this were a white official, you would be sooooo offended by the language. But because it is a balck person, it is ok, thereby showing your racism.
God help us from white liberals.

Her inarticulate speech is enough for the firing.

Jul. 21 2010 11:13 AM
gene from NYC

Paulson, investigate a bit. You fell for it, just as they planned.

A. She _wasn't_ working for the gov then, 25 years ago!

B. I heard Breitbart on Good Morning America claiming the clip was meant to show NAACP audience _approval_ of her being tempted to not give her best to the white farmer (who today _loves_ her and the effort she eventually gave to him, which was a LOT). Thanks to this clip, I see Breitbart was lying through his teeth--the audiences' approvals were about her learning to overcome her impulses and to see it wasn't about race, it was about "those who have vs. those who don't."

Jul. 21 2010 11:13 AM
Norman from NYC

Here's a transcript

Jul. 21 2010 11:12 AM

Let's not blame FOX News (like all the rest in the media), even the NAACP asked her step down without any due diligence. What does this tell you about government and the NAACP!!

Jul. 21 2010 11:09 AM
The Truth from Becky

The question is DOES she want the job back? I would say not without a public apology.

Jul. 21 2010 11:09 AM
The Truth from Becky

Of course she should get her job back! How many white racists do we have currently working for the government? Give me a break

Jul. 21 2010 11:08 AM
Eric K

If there is a better example of how dishonest right wing bullying has mastered the ability to shape national dialogue and make anyone remotely not like them cower in fear, I'd like to see it.

Jul. 21 2010 11:04 AM
Paulson from Westchester

"I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had 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."
Sounds more that a bit biased to me for a USDA director.

Jul. 21 2010 10:43 AM

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