Here is my timeline that starts three days prior. It is based on Sherrod's own accounting in an interview with MSNBC [click for video].
THURSDAY, 15 July 2010:
Shirley Sherrod says she was first alerted the previous Thursday, 15 July, when someone sent her a nasty email about the deceptively edited Internet video of her talk to a March 2010 NAACP event. She says she replied with her side of the story and then forwarded it all to the USDA that very day. Thus, three days before she was forced to resign, the USDA knew her NAACP talk was about a redemptive event in her life where she overcame race-based emotions and helped a white farmer and his wife save their land.
MONDAY, 19 July 2010:
Again according to Sherrod herself, around 2:30PM on Monday, while at an official USDA meeting, she received a call and was told she was being put on administrative leave. During her drive home from the meeting, she received multiple calls from the USDA, culminating in one where she was told the White House wanted her out immediately and demanding that she pull over and send her resignation using her Blackberry, which she did. It is clear their urgency was prompted by a rumor the incendiary video would appear on FoxNews that evening.
Thus, although the USDA had Sherrod's explanation and three days to view the entire video, they forced her to resign prior to the deceptively edited video appearing on FoxNews. The O'Reilly Factor, apparently recorded earlier that evening, was the first FoxNews show to play a 30-second clip, with a subtitle noting she had already resigned.
TUESDAY, 20 July 2010
Ag Secretary Vilsack stood by his decision to terminate Sherrod even after the full context of her NAACP talk was known. His statement said:
"Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. ... The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia."
The NAACP, in lockstep with the Administration, initially condemned Sherrod's remarks as "shameful" and stated they were "appalled by her actions". Later that day they said they would review the whole tape, which was in their possession. After doing so, they concluded they had been "snookered" by FoxNews.
WEDNESDAY, 21 July 2010
Hasty backtracking by all! Vilsack, having reviewed the full video, apologized for forcing Sherrod to resign. He announced he had offered her a new position at the USDA. O'Reilly apologized, saying he had not done his homework, should have read the whole transcript before jumping to unjustified conclusions, and should not have called for her to be ousted. The White House press secretary, on behalf of the Administration, joined the chorus. (President Obama called Sherrod the following day to add his apology.)
We all hoped the election of our first Black President would lead us further down the I have a Dream road where, in the words of Martin Luther King:
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."We have a ways to go but we have made a tremendous amount of progress. As a child I was apalled when "coloreds" were ordered to sit in the back of the Greyhound bus when we crossed into Maryland on our trip to Washington DC from New York.
Thank goodness government-imposed segregation is a thing of the past. Thank goodness the highest USDA official in Georgia was able to sit down "at a table of brotherhood" [and sisterhood] "on the red hills of Georgia [with] the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners". It was going so well until false accusations of racism by an Internet blogger, and a hair-trigger response by an overly-anxious Administration, forced her out.
IRRESPONSIBLE CHARGES OF RACISM AND THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT
The "bomb-throwing" rightwing blogger who posted the deceptively edited video of Sherrod excused his actions on the basis that the NAACP and other leftist groups have leveled similar untrue charges of racism at the Tea Party and the Republican Party and FoxNews and others on the right. Yes, extremists on both sides continue to make false charges of racism.
I am not a member of the Tea Party nor have I attended any of their events, but I generally support their views. They are a loosely associated group of local grassroots organizations. A few idiots (mostly provocateurs sent by Lyndon LaRouche as far as I can tell) attend Tea Party rallies with disgusting racist signs and the entire Tea Party is falsely labeled as racist.
I was pleased when the National Tea Party Federation, a coalition of local and regional Tea Party groups, soundly rejected a racist satire posted by a prominent person in the Tea Party Express group. The Federation demanded that the racial satirist be expelled by the Express group. When the Express group failed to do so, they were expelled from the Federation.
In keeping with the key tenets of the Tea Party movement of Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets, local and regional groups value their independence and reject any hint of a tightly controlled national body. That makes it more difficult to police their ranks. However, when the Northern Iowa Tea Party recently put up a disgusting billboard grouping President Obama with Hitler and Lenin, there was a clear outcry and the sign was taken down the next day!
The radical left seems to have adopted the tactic of falsely labeling the right in general, and the Tea Party in particular, as racists and worse. The media overplay the few nutcases with disgusting signs and generally ignore the overwhelming majority who are orderly and civil and even pick up the garbage when their rallies are over!
I am encouraged that the National Tea Party Federation (NTPF) has established strong membership rules, including:
- Our organization rejects Birthers.
- Our organization rejects 9/11 Truthers.
- Our organization rejects racial discrimination.
- Our organization rejects hate speech.
- Our organization rejects acts of violence or subversive behavior.