Yet all they did was end up with egg on their face. It was Shirley Sherrod who lost her job, was blasted as a racist online and on TV and was used as a political football between the Right Wing and the NAACP. Yesterday was just another day in knee jerk, reactionary 24-hour-news cycle. Where your career can end due to some poorly edited tape.
According to the Associated Press, Shirley Sherrod had a really, really bad Monday. She was in her car when she received calls from the Department of Agriculture pressuring her to resign from her position as Georgia Director of Rural Development. She said she was told to tenure her resignation via her Blackberry. And she did.
What was the hubbub about? A 38-second video clip that had gone viral via conservative blogger and ACORN antagonist Andrew Brietbart. The video showed Sherrod addressing a local NAACP chapter, speaking on an experience where she momentarily considered discriminating against a white farmer who had come to her for help. The clip spread fast and wide on the Internet and was played on FOX News.
The only problem with this 38-second clip was that it was taken out of context. Sherrod was speaking on over-coming her personal prejudices and how she became good friends with the farmer's family as she helped them save their farm. Sherrod and the Spooner family spoke to CNN about what really happened, but neither the people who fired Sherrod, nor Brietbart, who is in the middle of waging his own war on the NAACP, sought the whole story before they leapt into action. You know who else didn't wait for the full story? The NAACP.
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, still dealing with the whole Tea Party condemnation fall-out, took to Twitter criticizing Sherrod's "actions." The NAACP pushed a statment criticizing Sherrod without learning the full story.
From NY Daily News:
"According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race," he said in a statement before Sherrod's explanation.
"We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."
Later, NAACP backtracked, Jealous claiming the 101-year-old civil rights organization was "snookered" by FOX News. Jealous said he apologized to Sherrod personally over the phone. Then the NAACP released video of Sherrod's full statement.
TAPPED's Adam Serwer called the rush to trash Sherrod without getting the full story "fucking cowardly," which is about as apt of a description there is. Other words come to mind like "sad," "pathetic," and "amazingly stupid." This story, after all, originated with Brietbart who has a history of playing fast and loose with facts. This story was pushed largely by FOX News, which right now is pushing a two year old New Black Panthers are coming to eat your children meme, acting like the Department of Justice is being run by Nat Turner. The fact that Brietbart and FOX could scream "REVERSE RACIST!" at the White House and NAACP would both would jump without even questioning the source or getting the full story from Sherrod is beyond woefully depressing. It's especially sad since Sherrod was speaking to a local NAACP chapter and Jealous, et al, didn't even bother checking with anyone who saw her speech first to get the context. Brietbart had his bait, set his trap and the NAACP stumbled all over itself and fell right into it.
Greek dramatist and playwright Aeschylus wrote that in war the truth is the first casualty. There has been a racial war of words going on in this country for longer than any of us can recall that has only become more heightened and cowardly in the advent of the United States' first black President. It's one giant step forward ... a million tiny, obnoxious, shameful, nit-picky steps back as a gaggle of immature whiners get dragged into our so-called "Post-Racial" world.
Sherrod should get her job back and her life back and apologize all around. I say should, because these things are never known. So often when mistakes these big and public are made the last thing anyone wants to do is admit they're wrong. Even Roland Martin struggled immensely to hold on to his feeble criticisms of Sherrod after the full story came out. But rather than just admit that he hadn't known the full story before he rushed to his conclusions he dug himself a bigger hole and stood proudly in it, telling all critics on Twitter and Facebook to continue to pile on.
Again, a woman lost her career and had her good name destroyed over misinformation and cowardice. Over people who would rather be first than right. Over people who rather cover their own asses than stand up for a career employee. Over people who preen and pontificate for the fawning, fickle attention of the limelight, then abruptly change the subject when their beliefs prove false. Over people who have become afraid of their own shadow as they stood in a spotlight of their own creation. Truth is the first casualty in a war. Even if it's a war you never signed up for. The scary part is what happened to Sherrod could happen to anyone of any stripe, career or political affiliation in our age of information that comes at the speed of a Tweet. Any of us could find ourselves getting stuffed in the media's wood chipper by our own peers the minute we get caught in the crossfire.
In the battle of power and influence those with the least always suffer the most.
Yes this is embarrassing for the President, for Jealous and for the NAACP. But in a few days we'll be on to the next car crash. Let's hope things are made right for Sherrod before then. All too often the cameras move on while the true victim's dreams are dead and gone.