In it, Shirley Sherrod says that when she was called upon to help a white farmer (in her position with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, not a government job), she did not put her full effort into his case. She brought him to a white lawyer, to let "his own people" take care of him.
Yes, this is a personal anecdote of how Sherrod acted, in a role completely different than the one she held until being asked to resign by the head of the USDA. But is she recounting this anecdote with pride? The anecdote is from 24 years ago--is she speaking of it as a model for how she would act today?
It turns out, no, not at all. She was using the anecdote to illustrate how she came to understand that it was not black versus white that mattered, but rather "those who have versus those who have not." The story was about how she came to believe that all poverty comes from the same injustices, and that racism was a means created by wealthy white men to keep poor people of different races from helping and supporting one another.
In fact, she ended up spending years working to help the white farmer she speaks of in the anecdote, and his wife considers her a "friend for life." So, that's cool, right, I'm sure the USDA checked into the full story before firing her, right? Turns out, no. From Gawker:
So, Andrew Brietbart lied and defamed a government employee. And yet: Sherrod was asked to resign from her position as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's director of rural development for Georgia by her boss, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, apparently without any attempt on the part of Vilsack or the rest of the Obama administration to check up on the origin of the video or the story. And even as the White House attempts to distance itself from her forced resignation, they say they stand by it.Um, seriously? We celebrate Robert Byrd, who supported segregation and filibustered the Civil Rights Act, and fully embrace his change of heart, and yet the minute a black official says that 24 years ago she wasn't so sure how she felt about helping white people, in a notoriously racist state, until she changed her mind, we kick her out of her job? Breitbart, in trying to illustrate "reverse racism," has actually just given us yet another example of the regular kind.
What gives, guys? It's despicable, but we expect this kind of fatuous race-baiting from sleaze like Breitbart. What we don't expect—or what we shouldn't expect—is for the Obama administration to take the bait. The USDA is apparently "reconsidering" her forced departure, but get real: Sherrod should never have been asked to resign, period, and she should be reinstated to her former position immediately.
UPDATE: Robert Gibbs offers apologies on behalf of administration.