Talking Points

Who Is Shirley Sherrod and Why Was She Unjustly Fired by the Obama Administration?

By Bill O'Reilly

This is a fascinating story with all kinds of political and media implications.

On Monday night, "The Factor" ran a tape of Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod speaking to a group of NAACP people last March. Ms. Sherrod's speech was more than 30 minutes long, and we used just a small portion of it in which she said that years ago, as an administrator in Georgia, she did not help a white farmer with aid as much as she could have because he was white and she thought he was talking down to her.

After hearing that statement, I said Ms. Sherrod should resign from the USDA. And Secretary Vilsack felt the same way, so the woman was fired.

What I did not know at the time was that Ms. Sherrod told the farmer's story in order to make this point:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA OFFICIAL: I've come to realize that we have to work together and, you know, it's sad that we don't have a room full of whites and blacks here tonight, because we have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point where, as Toni Morrison said, race exists, but it doesn't matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context.

Since the exact same thing happened to me a few years ago on the despicable Media Matters and NBC News took my words out of context about Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, I well understand the need for honest reporting.

But the story does not end there.

Wednesday afternoon, Secretary Vilsack announced Ms. Sherrod would be hired back by the feds, but in a different job.

However, that could be problematic. In her speech last March, the speech you just saw there, Ms. Sherrod said a number of other things that need explanation. For example, she said this about helping the farmer by taking him to a white lawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD: So I figured if I'd take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him. That's when it was revealed to me that, y'all, it's about poor vs. those who have and not so much about white -- it is about white and black, but it's not, you know, it opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

One of his own? Would that be another American, Ms. Sherrod? If a white public servant referenced his own kind or one of his own when speaking about an African-American, that white person would be fired on the spot.

Now, Shirley Sherrod is a longtime liberal activist, who actually sued the Department of Agriculture and won $13 million for her organization, including $300,000 for herself and her husband. Even knowing that, the Obama administration hired Ms. Sherrod in 2009, which is very unusual.

In that same speech to the NAACP, Ms. Sherrod defined her politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD: I haven't seen such mean-spirited people as I've seen lately on this issue of health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

SHERROD: Some of the racism we thought was buried – didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes, and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So here we have blatant partisanship publicly put forth by Ms. Sherrod, also very unusual for an appointed public servant and a possible ethical violation because, according to the Hatch Act, federal employees are forbidden to endorse political parties while on duty.

That being said, Ms. Sherrod's entire situation should now be reviewed by the Obama administration, because she may have well been treated unfairly. Certainly she thinks so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD: The thing that Fox has done is a total lie. They misrepresented a story that I told to a group to try to bring people together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Memo to Shirley: Using phrases like "his own kind" is not a good "bringing people together" strategy, although we all make mistakes. And I don't think she had any malice there.

As mentioned, the NAACP also called for Ms. Sherrod to be fired and then recanted, blaming Fox News for "snookering them." Well, since Ms. Sherrod made her speech in front of that organization, maybe their own incompetence snookered them.

And then there is NBC News howling with left-wing indignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "TODAY" SHOW: I don't know who to blame here, Ms. Sherrod. I mean, the activist who put forward this garbage in the first place has an agenda. We shouldn't be surprised by that. The cable news network that played this garbage on and on and talked about it has an agenda.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This is what Fox News does. This is how they are different from other news organizations. Just like the fake ACORN controversy, Fox News knows that it has a role in this dance. That's not new. That's not actually even interesting about this scandal. Fox does what Fox does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Which is kick your network's butt every single night, madam. And you have to be kidding with this fake ACORN scandal stuff. Unbelievable. Do you live in this country?

One of the few honest brokers on NBC's cable news arm is Chris Matthews, a Democrat who says what he believes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": Here's Bill O'Reilly last night on Fox. I think Bill -- knowing Bill is going to correct this tonight, I really hope he does. I think he will. But here he is operating in the same rash judgment that the White House operated in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Not so much rash, but I did not analyze the entire transcript. And that was unfair to Ms. Sherrod, as I've said. She does deserve to be treated fairly.

But on the matter of her world view, "Talking Points" believes it is quite clear Ms. Sherrod may very well see things through a racial prism and did make political statements under the USDA banner. Should she be doing the people's business with that kind of resume? I don't think so. She should be in the private or charity sector.

And that's "The Memo." I hope it was fair.

Pinheads & Patriots

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He's hanging around with Whoopi Goldberg. We don't know his name, and it's just as well, but if you like music, he's a patriot.

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