Beware of Winguts Bearing Tapes

Filed in National by on July 21, 2010

Video tape is a really powerful medium. Seeing something for yourself is 10,000x greater than reading another’s account of an event. This is a cautionary tale.

Yesterday, Andrew Breitbart of ACORN tape fame released a short video of USDA official Shirley Sherrod speaking to a NAACP group. The tape appeared to show Ms. Sherrod discussing how she had refused to help a white farmer facing foreclosure because he was white (in 1986).

“What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him,” she said. “I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.”

The tape was explosive. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pressured Ms. Sherrod to resign, which she did. The NAACP also issued a statement condemning Ms. Sherrod’s remarks. Of course, this not the whole story. The clip was actually part of a longer speech. In the speech she talked about her own struggles with race (her father was actually murdered by a white farmer) and how she realized that she was wrong and that we’re all in it together.

SHERROD: Well, working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t.

AUDIENCE: That’s right.

SHERROD: You know, and they could be black, and they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people — those who don’t have access the way others have.

I want to just share something with you and I think it helps to — you know, when I learned this, I’m like, oh, my goodness. You know, back in the late 17th and 18th century, black — there were black indentured servants and white indentured servants, and they all would work for seven years and get their freedom. And they didn’t see any difference in each other — nobody worried about skin color. They married each other. You know, these were poor whites and poor blacks in the same boat, except they were slaves, but they were both slaves and both had their opportunity to work out on the slavery.

But then they started looking at the injustices that they faced and started then trying — you know, the people with money — you know, they started — the poor whites and poor blacks — they — you know, they married each other. They lived together. They were just like we would be. And they started looking at what was happening to them and decided we need to do something about it — you know, about this. Well, the people with money, the elite, decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them.

So that’s when they made black people servants for life. That’s when the put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That’s when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they — it started working so well, they said, gosh, looks like we’ve come up on something here that can last generations — and here we are. Over 400 years later, and it’s still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us.

The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it’s health care or whatever it is, they’ll do what they need to do to keep that power.


So really, it’s a heartwarming story about how Ms. Sherrod was able to overcome her own struggles with race. She actually helped the farmer save his farm. In fact, she and the farmer and his wife are very close friends. The farmer at the center of the story, Roger Spooner, backs this up.

Instead of this story being a heartwarming story of a devoted public servant and her many years of public service we now have a story of vicious racism and public slander. Shame, shame on Tom VilsacK, the Obama administration and the NAACP for falling for shameless manipulative liar Andrew Breitbart. Shame on the media for continuing the smear on Ms. Sherrod. Have they learned nothing from the ACORN tapes? Obviously they haven’t.

Yes, I’m furious at the administration and the NAACP for caving to rightwing pressure. This means that there will still be huge incentives for wingnuts to keep doing this. But let’s keep things in perspective. Andrew Breitbart and all his wannabes think nothing of ruining someone’s life simply based on race. Shirley Sherrod was targeted because she is African-American. Breitbart’s single-mindedness is that African-Americans are the real racists and white men are the real victims. They push stories like the New Black Panthers and now Shirley Sherrod to prove (in their own minds) that all African-Americans hate white people = Obama hates white people. It’s disgusting and incredibly harmful.

At least there is some positive coming out of the story. The NAACP has apologized to Ms. Sherrod and has learned a lesson – never trust a wingnut with a tape. There are also reports this morning that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is reconsidering his decision and could rehire Ms. Sherrod. Personally I hope Ms. Sherrod gets a great lawyer and sues the pants off of Andrew Breitbart, who denies editing the tape.

If you’re curious, you can watch Shirley Sherrod’s whole speech here.

There’s a facebook group “Give Shirley Sherrod Her Job Back Now”.

It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact (politely) the Agriculture Department to tell them they should re-instate Shirley Sherrod.

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Opinionated chemist, troublemaker, blogger on national and Delaware politics.

Comments (55)

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  1. a.price says:

    just another in the Right wing trend of “us white people are SOOOOO oppressed”
    poor white people. We have had it so difficult in this country.

  2. I’m so sick of these rightwingers and their whining. Every time they whine about being a victim it just shows how out-of-touch they are with what real people go through.

    I hope this time at least there is some consequences for Breitbart and for the media who ran with this video without finding out where it came from.

  3. jason330 says:

    This story absolutely crystallizes the modern conservative movement. The racism. The casual willingness to lie & cheat. The ability to play the mass media for the suckers they are, and the smug knowledge that Democrats will fold like creased slacks.

    Also, Shirley Sherrod needs to sue the shit out of Andrew Breitbart. I’m no lawyer, but she must have a case.

  4. a.price says:

    They need to be held accountable. The wing-nut does not understand morality if it is dealing with people that look different from it. If wingnuts are can keep doing this stuff without some sort of consequence, they will keep doing it.

    That said, anything that happens to Breitbart will just be labeled as race-based and called an attack on his freedom of speech by his fellow ‘bagz. Just like black women have been keeping white men down for hundreds of years.

  5. delacrat says:

    I hope she pursues a defamation of character suit.

  6. Observer says:

    Come on. Shirley Sherrod’s firing was a sign of progress in America.

    After all, it was the NAACP and the Obama Administration treating an African-American woman just like they would have treated a white man in the same situation.

    And those two firsts are truly worthy of celebration.

  7. Observer says:

    By the way, a couple of things to consider.

    1) Given that the NAACP had the original tape, why did they pile on if what Shirley Sherrod said was really innocuous? Is it because they were too lazy to review the tape in their own possession? Or is it because they decided to reverse course only after the liberal lap-dog media decided to give Shirley Sherrod the victim treatment instead of the villain treatment they would have given a whit eman in the same situation?

    2) Given that Ben Jealous was apparently present when the speech was made (see at 45 second mark), why did Jealous need to review the tape and how could he have been “snookered” unless he is really incompetent?

  8. jason330 says:

    “…the liberal lap-dog media…”


  9. Yes, it’s like conservatives can’t help but show how stupid they are sometimes. Mention race and idiots come out.

  10. anon says:

    The funny thing is, firing Sherrod is the one Obama fuckup the right wing can’t attack him on. Because it was their idea.

  11. kaveman says:

    Anybody here want to join my new org?

    It’s the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

  12. Jonathan Turley on whether Sherrod can sue Breitbart. He says she can sue for “false light” and “defamation.” Breitbart’s defense would be that he was trying to show crowd reaction. However, taking it out of context (what’s the crowd reaction to her reveal?) could hurt him I think. I don’t agree with all that Turley says here but here’s the ending:

    Of course, if Sherrod were to sue, she would likely make it past initial motions to dismiss and could secure embarrassing discovery in the case, including possible internal emails and communications on the purpose of the editing and release of the video.

  13. jason330 says:

    Getting to the Discovery would be worth it. Kick that rotten log and no doubt all manner of unsavory worminess would be instantly exposed.

  14. MJ says:

    Kaveman, the NAAWP was started by David Duke back in 1980. You remember him – former Grand Wizard of the KKK, vile anti-Semite, all-around asshole.

  15. Wow, Andrew Breitbart is an asshole. He’s now proposing a conspiracy that the Spooners, the family that was helped by Shirley Sherrod, is a plant. It’s sort of ironic that liar and video editor Breitbart is now demanding to know sources and wants to see evidence.

  16. jason330 says:

    She also, it seems to me, has a case against Vilesack.

  17. jason330 says:

    LOL. Yeah Andrew Breitbart was set up.

  18. jason330 says:

    I think it is safe to assume that they’ll burn out some shredders and torch some hard drives tonight at Breitbart’s. Under discovery everything related to the case comes out. The thought of that POS being sued makes me so happy.

  19. anon says:

    burn out some shredders and torch some hard drives

    If the data passed through their Crackberries and iPhones and gMail – it exists and can be subpoenaed.

  20. Aoine says:

    I’m personally waiting for one of those talking heads from FOX that ripped Ms Sherrod apart to apologize
    the right wing spin – (and O’Reilly’s no-spin zone – LOL)boy oh boy – their heads where whirling like Linda Blairs in the Exorcist!!
    the NAACP apologized – as they should have:
    I’m waiting for the rest that demonized her to do the same

    however – the White House can now stand on their decision to NOT treat FOX as a news org but only as a “media outlet”

    they just cut their own throats

  21. MJ says:

    Jason – she was (is) a Schedule C employee and works at the pleasure of the President. She can be fired (or forced to resign) without cause and has no recourse against the government.

  22. Observer says:

    Actually, any case Sherrod filed would never get to discovery.

    She is a government official who was giving a speech in that capacity talking about her conduct in administering a government program. NY Times v. Sullivan would lead to immediate dismissal unless they could present evidence at the start that Breitbart knowingly presented a falsehood — and since Sherrod did admit to engaging in racial discrimination and the audience did react approvingly, she cannot make that showing REGARDLESS of what else is on that tape and REGARDLESS of her later claim that some of her best friends are white.

  23. jason330 says:

    I guess we’ll see. Sounds to me like it is clear that Breitbart knowingly presented a falsehood.

  24. anon says:

    Wingnuts will always be lying assholes; that will never change. The story here is Vilsack going along with it and not calling them out on it.

  25. Turley says she has a case.

  26. Observer says:

    Actually, MJ, that isn’t quite true. There is the issue of firings that are against public policy — if Barack Obama decided to fire a Jewish employee because he/she was a Jew, there would be a case.

    And besides, you liberals went all apeshit over the firing of such at-will political appointees (US attorneys) by George W. Bush, so you can’t just claim that the actions of this administration are OK.

  27. Observer says:

    Who does Turley claim she has a case against?

  28. Observer says:

    Jason — what falsehood did Breitbart present? That she admitted to racial discrimination in the performance of her job? She admitted to it!

  29. a.price says:

    look at Observer hyperventilate that a deceptive wing-nut will be held accountable for his actions. I guess the right’s hard-on for “personal responsibility” only extends as far as it doesn’t negatively affect white people.

  30. a.price says:

    even glenn beck (who is going blind btw) is calling for her to get her job back.. GLENN BECK!!!!!!

  31. jason330 says:

    Yeah. For someone who calls himself (herself?) “Observer” he (she?) is working pretty hard at not observing the simple facts of the case.

  32. a.price says:

    well, the facts as the Right wing chooses to see them, points to 200 years of oppressed white men at the hands of evil powerful black women. Poor guy (Breitbart) is just trying to get a small ammount of justice for all the suffering. he’s a hero.

  33. Observer,

    My comment at 10:10 has a link to Turley’s piece. The case is against Breitbart. He thinks it would get to discovery.

    Observer you’re also wrong about the facts. She didn’t admit to not doing her job. She said she did what was necessary and then found out that the lawyer was screwing them and she helped them further. Read the transcript and watch the full video.

  34. jason330 says:

    The news that Beck is going blind was first reported by Glenn Beck. that’s all I’m saying.

  35. jason330 says:


    George Bush was a great President when it came to fucking up the country.

    I just admitted that Bush was a great President. See how the conservative mind works? I admitted it!

  36. David Frum on the shame of the conservative media:

    But you’ll never guess who emerged as the villains of the story in this second-day conservative react. Not Andrew Breitbart, the distributor of a falsified tape. No, the villains were President Obama and the NAACP for believing Breitbart’s falsehood.

    Breitbart went almost universally unmentioned. Erickson even justified Breitbart’s falsehood as a tragic but necessary and justifiable measure of conservative self-defense

    There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart’s role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart’s role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself.

    When people talk of the “closing of the conservative mind” this is what they mean: not that conservatives are more narrow-minded than other people — everybody can be narrow minded — but that conservatives have a unique capacity to ignore unwelcome fact.

    Yes, let’s not lose sight of who the bad guy is in this story.

  37. MJ says:

    Observer – please don’t preach Federal government personnel rules and regulations to me. I work for the agency that sets these rules (in fact, I’ve drafted many of them during my career). She wasn’t forced to resign because she was black. As for the US Attorneys, those firings were purely political moves (their failure to prosecute Democrats) that were in violation of 5 USC 2302.

  38. MJ says:

    Beck going blind? Well, I guess we all know what he’s been doing when he’s off the air.

  39. a.price says:

    a bit off topic, but

    let the biblical connections of a blind prophet begin. .. as a human i feel bad for the guy… but knowing what he does and who his audience is, i feel worse for the world because of how this will be used to get ratings and start revolutions.

  40. anon says:

    Just when I thought his eyes couldn’t get any crazier.

  41. jason330 says:

    Guess what? He is exaggerating in order to appeal to the dupes and losers that comprise his audience. Read Price’s link.

  42. anon says:

    Can’t he have boils instead?

  43. anonone says:

    The whole incident shows how gutless Obomba and his minions are in the face of the slightest conservative criticism. The fact that Vilsack is has a job today and Sherrod does not is a travesty.

  44. anonone says:

    Beck has been blind for years.

  45. anon says:

    Armed wingnut was on his way to shoot up environmental group targeted by Beck.

  46. jason330 says:

    Thanks for that link anon. That is the conclusive link between Fox “News”, Beck and wingnut violence that we’ve all suspected would be made clear at some point. Luckily this one did not end in massive bloodshed, but it sounds like it easily could have.

  47. a.price says:

    it is not fox new’s fault if someone decides on their own to go kill people based on fear put into them and lies fed to them by fix news….. unless it gets fox news better ratings.

  48. Democrats did it too is right up there on the Republican Guide to Excuse Making!

    So David’s defense of Breitbart’s false accusations is that falsely accusing someone of racism is bad so we’ll randomly destroy someone’s career to prove this.

  49. jason330 says:

    Yep. The cognitive dissonance is monstrous in that one.

  50. its all a comedy! says:

    Listening to the right wing one might assume that this tape was done while in her current job. The fact that Breitbart EDITED the tape, delivered same to Sham Hannity, followed by Oreilly gave the story legs. (Just like Acorn).It has been quoted White House had Faux News on and heard the edited version. Why hasn’t Faux News been taken to task for not confirming the content before Sham went on air? Or Orielly? It just proves Faux news really is fake news. I have not heard the NAACP had a “copy” of a 24 year old tape? The NAACP discovered the mistake when an NAACP person in Georgia called and informed they had it all wrong. Sherrod has been an NAACP member and a civil rights leader for decades.

    Rick Jenson who lies like a rug, never mentioned on his program anything about the fake news of Breitbart or Sham or Oiley spilling this fake story? This morning Faux News is now blaming the Obama administration for acting hastily in the request for Sherrod to turn in her resignation. So Faux once busted took that opportunity to blame Obama for a false story they put out? The White House and Congress need to turn the Faux News channel OFF, and tend to the business of the majority of Americans, rather than REact to anything on Faux!
    Jenson also read a list today of reasons why “democrats” are fed up with Obama. Listed was yet another outright lie, that democrats are mad because the Obama Attorney General didnt take the 3 black panthers to court. See Jenson is either ignorant of facts or he is a outright liar. That story was debunked a wk ago, it was the BUSH AG’s office that didnt pursue three people in Phila. claiming to be Black Panthers. I guess Jenson wonders why no one calls his show. Perhaps Rick your playing with words, and half truths in spite of the facts has caught up with you and no one trusts you anymore.

  51. liberalgeek says:

    The tape itself is not 24 years old. The tape is from the spring, but the story that she was telling was about something that happened 24 years earlier.

  52. its all a comedy! says:

    According to…the talk was given March 27, 2010!

  53. Von Cracker says:

    Briebart’s sacrifice may have given himself a wingnut pension for life!

    too bad he’s scarred for life as well

  54. liberalgeek says:

    its all comedy – yes. She was relaying the story that changed her life 24 years earlier.

  55. a.price says:

    this keeps getting more and more disgusting. It appears the Obama admin is afraid of Fake News and the right wing media. Faux is now able to force the government to make whatever racist horrible ratings-getting decision it wants.
    Keith had a very good special comment last night on the matter.

    We can not let the Right wing continue to hijack this country. This story is just another grain of truth that the droves of excrement that claims to be the more God loving more Patriotic side of america is only interested in their own money and protecting the power hold of white people. It is un american, it is evil and we can never let these people re-gain control of this country.