The Shirley Sherrod Race Story: The Day the Media BLEW UP
July 21, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The media blew up yesterday under the weight of ugly right-wing race-baiting. Propagandist Andrew Brietbart and Fox News, the same team that peddled the false ACORN tapes, struck again. And in an already racially charged political climate of the NAACP versus the tea party and Fox News’ blanket coverage of a phony New Black Panthers story, designed to portray President Obama as a scary black man, Shirley Sherrod, a low level administration official in the USDA, was targeted yesterday by the right-wing propaganda machine of Andrew Brietbart’s BigGoverment website and its willing partner Fox News. A heavily edited and misleading tape of Sherrod speaking before the NAACP last March, gave the false impression that she withheld federal assistance to a white farmer about to lose his farm, based on race. The edited tape with the added misleading text gave the appearance that Sherrod withheld aid during her tenure as an USDA official, a job she has only held since 2009. Well, Brietbart’s attacks against Sherrod’s remarks as “evidence of racism” were false. She was actually telling a story that occurred 24-years ago when she worked for a non-profit group. And the point of her story was to teach the assembled NAACP members about reconciliation and race, by retelling her own personal journey as a black woman in the deep South whose family had been victimized by white supremacists. The takeaway from her story, was that she finally realized that people of every color and nationality were all in this struggle to survive together. Her job was about helping poor people, she concluded. “That’s when it was revealed to me that it’s about poor versus those who have. It’s not so much about white…it is about white and black but it’s not, you know…it opened my eyes.”
When Fox News starting airing the edited tape over and over again of Sherrod saying she didn’t give the white farmer “the full force” of federal assistance, condemnation was swift. The NAACP issued a statement calling her racism “shameful” and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack quickly demanded Sherrod’s resignation. And that’s when the story hit the traditional media in full force. The white farmers whom Sherrod supposedly discriminated against, came out in full support of the embattled USDA official, saying because of her help their farm was saved. The NAACP retracted its statement after reviewing the full tape and speaking with Sherrod. They apologized, saying they were “snookered” by Fox News and Andrew Brietbart’s smear tactics. By late afternoon, the story was that the Obama administration overreacted and fired a dedicated public servant.
It’s going to be a long hot summer, as the right-wing partnered with Fox News, continues to race-bait going into the November elections. It’s already getting ugly folks. CNN contributer and RedState blogger, Erick Erikson has declared that Republicans should use race to attack Obama, the same way that former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Dukakis was smeared with the infamous Willie Horton attack. But yesterday, Brietbart’s nasty smear tactics were even too much for the likes of Erickson.
What happens now? Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement, saying he would further investigate, to ensure that all Americans would receive equal treatment from the USDA. And he will “reconsider the department’s decision to oust a black employee over racially tinged remarks after learning more about what she said.”
Going forward, maybe this whole, ugly incident has an upside. The fact that the traditional media also got burned by falling for this manufactured right-wing story may take some of the wind out of Brietbart and Fox News’ race-baiting sails.
After peddling the false ACORN tapes, Brietbart’s credibility should already have been destroyed. And for Fox News, they are quickly backtracking trying to slant the story now, as a failure of the Obama administration.
The White House says it was not behind Sherrod’s firing. But White House staffers are involved now, requesting that Vilsack review his decision.
The media focus today: Obama caved into right-wing pressure and demanded that Sherrod be fired, before the story appeared on Glenn Beck’s chalkboard. Whatever the case regarding the extent of the White House’s involvement, one thing is clear— the right-wing’s summer of race-baiting has stirred up racial tensions, just as they intended. Instead of talking about jobs and the economy and healthcare, the media is now attacking Obama as cowardly for giving in to the ugly race-baiting–as they conveniently forget that they drove the story of Shirley Sherrod relentlessly yesterday.
As our nation’s first black president, Obama is behind a rock and a hard place, as his administration fends off the right-wing’s racial attacks.
If it wasn’t clear before, and God knows why it wasn’t in some people’s minds—Fox News is not a credible news organization. And Andrew Brietbart should be treated for the ugly smear merchant that he is.
Let’s all learn from this ugly episode.
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