The strange tale of Shirley Sherrod
You can't trust liberal journalists. Nor, apparently, can you trust Andrew Breitbart in this case.
I'm sure there are some reasonable explanations for all this. I'd like to hear them.
UPDATE (7/21): Here's one explanation from Paul Mirengoff at Powerline. Does this make sense to you?
But the point Breitbart was making has nothing to do with the merits of Sherrod or her fitness to continue at the Agriculture Department. The portions of the tape of interest to Breitbart are those in which members of the NAACP laugh at and approve of Sherrod's initial impulse to provide inferior service to a white farmer. These NAACP members have been caught on tape condoning racism by a government official and demonstrating their own racism. Meanwhile, the NAACP condemns the Tea Party for what appears to be phantom racism.
That seems right and true. But I'm still troubled that the tape was truncated, which wrenched Sherrod's words out of context, if not the reaction of her audience.
The Anchoress has an excellent roundup and I think this observation is correct:
This whole sordid mess of a story–which is clearly not over–may tell us that it is past time for people of good will to stop tolerating politically-expedient charges of racism, regardless of whether they originate from genuinely from overzealous, malicious
bloggers or from Congressmen who are confident that any charge they make will be deemed insta-credible, or from journalists who ignore real racism while trying to ignite the charge elsewhere, for the advancement of their own partisan agendas, or from the rightly marginalized, fringe-living, stupid people who every sensible person
The NAACP’s maneuver last week was an attempt at cynical manipulation, a lazy card they thought they could play, because it’s always taken the pot, before. They ticked off Breitbart, who upped the ante, but appears to have done so recklessly.
Everyone’s credibility is now strained, and perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps the left should finally leave behind the smug instinct to sniff, “racism, straight up” over sincere disagreements on policy. If they can manage that, then perhaps the right can stop feeling so defensive.
It's a good thought, but don't count on it.
SECOND UPDATE (7/21): Meanwhile, the story gets more interesting as we learn more about Shirley Sherrod's back story:
Ms. Sherrod's previous background, the circumstances surrounding her hiring, and the USDA's agenda may all play a part in explaining her sudden departure from the agency. These matters have not received much scrutiny to this point.Vilsack, in case you don't know, is Tom Vilsack, who is now the Secretary of Agriculture. There's a lot more at the link, including some fascinating stuff about the Pigford case, which apparently has been going on for nearly 30 years. Let's put it this way: Tom Vilsack probably didn't mind that Andrew Breitbart gave him a pretext for taking action against a particularly meddlesome priest.
An announcement of Ms. Sherrod's July 2009 appointment to her USDA position at ruraldevelopment.org gives off quite a few clues:
RDLN Graduate and Board Vice Chair Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families (see below) has won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.