Did the Obama Administration and NAACP rush to judge Shirley Sherrod, the U.S. Agriculture Department official, who says she was forced to resign?
Sherrod says yes.
At issue is the video posted online that shows Sherrod delivering a speech in March at a dinner for a Georgia NAACP chapter. In the clip that has a lot of people talking, Sherrod, who is black, described a 1986 encounter with a white farmer before she had the USDA job, when she was working for the nonprofit Federation of the Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund.
The video shows Sherrod telling the audience that the white farmer "took a long time... trying to show me he was superior to me." That led her, she said, to not "give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."
Though, Sherrod says the clip originally posted by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart and picked up by Fox News, doesn't tell the whole story.
"I did not discriminate against him (the farmer). And in fact, I went all out. I had to frantically look for a lawyer at the last minute because the first lawyer we went to was not doing anything to really help him," Sherrod said.
Roger Spooner, told CNN he's the farmer she speaks of in the video. He has nothing but praise for her.
"If it hadn't been for her, we would've never known who to see or what to do," said Spooner. "She led us right to our success."
Tonight on 360°, you'll hear from Spooner. You'll also hear from Sherrod and get to listen to the other part of the tape in question that wasn't posted online - until today.
The USDA isn't backing down. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said her resignation was necessary because it "compromises the director's ability to do her job."
He also said the push for her to step down did not come from the White House.
"I made this decision, it's my decision. Nobody from the White House contacted me about this at all," he said.
Meantime, the NAACP has changed its tune. Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the civil rights' group, released a new statement today after reviewing the entire video.
"With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias," the statement reads.
"Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans."
Later in the statement, Jealous writes, "While we understand why Secretary Vilsack believes this false controversy will impede her ability to function in the role, we urge him to reconsider."
This is in sharp contrast to the NAACP's first news release issued late Monday when the organization backed Vilsack's decision.
"Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at the USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race," Jealous wrote in the first news release.
Anderson will also talk with Jealous tonight about the controversy.
You’ll also hear from Breitbart, who told CNN, “This was not about Shirley Sherrod.”
“This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party and this [the video of Sherrod] is showing racism at an NAACP event. I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired. I did not ask for any repercussions for Shirley Sherrod,” he added.
In the meantime, what do you think? Should Sherrod get her job back? Sound off below.
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