House Majority Whip and Congressional Black Caucus member Jim Clyburn (D-SC) says he knows what prompted the fracas that triggered an Agriculture Department official to resign after being falsely portrayed as a racist..
Clyburn says the furor isn’t about what it seems to have started over.
“It’s not about race,” Clyburn said. “It’s about reporting and responding. There were hasty news reports about this.”
Clyburn, only the second African American to ever hold a leadership post in Congress, took the media and blogosphere to task for creating a firestorm over an edited speech made by Shirley Sherrod. When taken out of context, Sherrod’s remarks before an NAACP meeting appeared to be racist when in fact the entire speech revealed something very different.
“We live in a different world today,” Clyburn said, “Dicing, splicing that takes place by people who are media causing a lot of harm.”
Sherrod spoke in March to a NAACP meeting in Georgia. During her remarks, Sherrod told of how she received a request from white farmers Roger and Eloise Spooner. Sherrod, who is black, said withheld assistance because of his race.
In reality, the Sherrod said she did help the white farmers. The Spooners credit Sherrod with helping them save their farm. And Sherrod was merely using a rhetorical device when she said she considered withholding government help from the Spooners because she was black and they were white. The full video of Sherrod’s speech shows a very different presentation than the edited clips that went viral earlier this week.
Which explains why Jim Clyburn held his strongest criticism for conservative activist and blogger Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart released the edited video Monday. He told FOX he obtained the video from an “individual in Georgia.” However, the shorter portions of the video only portrayed Sherrod in a negative light.
“This guy is so mean. Mean or sick,” Clyburn said of Breitbart. “I know what point he's trying to make. That's how idiotic he is.”
Clyburn spoke to reporters just before members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) crowded into a cramped meeting room with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack late Wednesday. Vilsack paid the CBC a rare, in-person call on Capitol Hill to explain how he was too quick to release Sherrod from her position and erred in doing so.
CBC member Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) wanted to know how Vilsack reached such quick decision to let Sherrod go before back-pedaling and apologizing after the full contents of the tape came to light.
“My question is what is the standard for employees at DOA?” Scott asked. “Was it inappropriately applied to her, whether or not discrimination still being found in the department?”
CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) applauded Vilsack’s 180-turn on Sherrod.
“We expressed to Secretary Vilsack that as the Administration and Department of Agriculture begins the process of repairing the damage from this situation, we are willing to work with them to ensure an equitable and fair outcome for Ms. Sherrod,” Lee said.