Rev. Jesse Jackson on Fallout From Firing of Shirley Sherrod

The following is a rush transcript of the July 25, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: With race and politics back in the news, we've invited Jesse Jackson to join us from Chicago.

And, Reverend Jackson, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Are we to discuss the Newt Gingrich-Palin ticket or discuss Sherrod?

WALLACE: I think let's talk about Sherrod. But we'll have you back here to talk about the Gingrich-Palin ticket, although it might be Palin- Gingrich.

Why do you think, sir, that the Obama...

JACKSON: Oh, boy.

WALLACE: Why do you think the Obama administration made such a rush to judgment about Shirley Sherrod?

JACKSON: Well, the idea of an avalanche of news media accusing them of being racist is offensive and politically threatening. The context of this, of course, is that the NAA challenged the Tea Party, and they put some members out. Then that was targeted to prove that blacks were as racist as whites. It's a very low level of American dialogue.

And of course, when this news story broke by Breitbart, it frightened the White House, as a matter of fact. They didn't want to be accused of being racist. And of course, they ignored due process. They were wrong in overreacting.

WALLACE: Should a White House be frightened of a clip that was on a conservative Web site?

JACKSON: Well, you can be. In this age of social media -- I thought when Newt tried to equate this with how one handles Iran was really a false comparison. If you are about to be hit by an avalanche of news media criticism and you feel you have no moral foundation, there's a tendency to buckle.

Now, the reality is that the -- Shirley Sherrod was denied due process. The White House was wrong. And that is why the White House apologized, Gibbs and the president and Secretary Vilsack, because they were wrong in overreacting. But that was the basis of the reaction.


JACKSON: I would think that in days to come the idea of character assassination on the media, whether it is by blogging or by YouTube -- we should see that as what Breitbart did was morally wrong. And it created, of course, a very ugly political climate.

WALLACE: But, Reverend Jackson, as I pointed out with Governor Dean, the fact is the White House or the administration fired Shirley Sherrod before her name ever appeared on Fox News Channel or, to my knowledge, on any of the other cable channels.

They fired her for fear. I thought this president came in to try to change the culture in Washington.

JACKSON: Well, there is a new social media culture -- Breitbart is not just a guy. He has a conglomerate of blogs. And once he unleashed his blog, which was about to go on Huffington Post and other blogs, and moving its -- moving its way toward Fox News, in anticipation. You know, sometime clouds appear before the actual -- the rain actually falls, and so there is a fear factor.

One (inaudible) be seen as positive and uplifting and one runs from being attacked, and this is what they did, really. They were wrong.

WALLACE: How do you explain the NAACP praising Sherrod's resignation based on a clip that ran, as you say, on a conservative website when they had access to her entire 43-minute speech? In fact, she had made it before an NAACP meeting.

JACKSON: Well, again, Ben Jealous apologized and made an adjustment.  And you see a calamity of errors here.

But what I find interesting, Chris, just this past Thursday the black farmers got a $1.2 billion settlement, the Indians a $3.2 billion settlement, for race discrimination. We're not discussing all the facts (inaudible) would not honor the settlement of -- 100,000 black farmers get no press. Native Americans get no press. We're still arguing about how fast or slow the White House reacted.

Also the Spooner's testimony -- this white family farmer, Eloise and Mr. Spooner -- I thought their stepping up to the plate in alliance with Sherrod was a great news story that none of us should miss.

WALLACE: Well, I -- well, I certainly agree with that, and we -- and we reported that they had backed her.

Let me just ask you a bigger question. Do you think that this administration has been too timid in taking on conservatives, too concerned about being branded as liberal?

JACKSON: Well, they are attacked for being liberal, in fact. I mean, the fight for a health care bill to cover all Americans and leave none behind is attacked as being a race appeal, which is not true, but then it's put out in the media as true.

Any move toward racial justice away from race(inaudible) is a basis for attack. And that is a very ugly climate. At some point in time, however, the administration must simply do something as basic as simply enforce the law, whether it's community investment, EEOC (inaudible) implies enforce the law, and if it -- and if it comes back, take the hit.

Robert Kennedy had to take that hit. Lyndon Johnson had to take that hit. Truman had to take that hit. You cannot get around (inaudible) committing to enforcing racial justice and gender equality.

WALLACE: Speaking of racial justice, it seemed this week that the White House went to some lengths to keep the president out of another conversation about race. Is that a mistake?

JACKSON: Well, they were -- they tried to avoid it, but it's unavoidable. The issue of -- you know, when I went to jail this year, along with Sherrod, 50 years ago seeking access to public accommodations, we were then separated by race. We couldn't use the same hotel, motel, park, library.

Now we're not so much separated horizontal. Now they have these tiers. So here we are today with a new conversation. When University of Georgia plays Georgia Tech, it's uniform color versus skin color. We have -- we've overcome that level of racial fear.

On the other hand, you look at income gap or you look at wealth gap, infant -- blacks number one in infant mortality, in short life expectancy, in unemployment, in home foreclosure -- because the same day there was the beer summit with President Barack Obama and Crowley and Dr. Gates, that same day Attorney General Lisa Madigan from Illinois filed a lawsuit. A major bank had targeted...

WALLACE: Reverend...

JACKSON: ... blacks and browns who...

WALLACE: Reverend...

JACKSON: Hear me now.

WALLACE: Well, I...

JACKSON: I'm saying that...

WALLACE: We're running out of time and I want to ask you about two more questions, if I may, sir.

The first is about this question of race, because you were involved in an incident just recently -- some say that you played the race card recently.

It all came out when the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers wrote an open letter after LeBron James announced he was leaving the team in which he said this about James' leaving. He called his decision a "shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own."

And here's how you responded, talking about the owner, "He speaks as an owner of LeBron, not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave."

Question, why make it about race? Couldn't this just have been about the owner of a team and a fan who was terribly disappointed by a decision?

JACKSON: Well, he really went beyond that. Here's a guy who owns the Fathead. He reduced it from $99 to $17.41 -- the year of the birth of Benedict Arnold. Here's a guy who bought casino licenses and he expected LeBron to fill up the stadium and the (inaudible) casino. Here's a guy who's about to get 30 percent investors from China to expand his empire.

WALLACE: But don't you think he would have been just as upset if ...

JACKSON: ... a guy who...


WALLACE: Don't you think he would have been just as upset if LeBron James were a white star?

JACKSON: I don't know. What I do know is that he said LeBron quit five times, but quitting is very close to (inaudible). Why would a guy who was under the contract be attacked in this way by the owner of a team?  It's like his major source of revenue got away.

So to me, it looked like Dred Scott. That's my cultural orientation.  I think -- I think Gibbs was wrong. And I think any other owner who does that to a player should face the consequences. I think it was really wrong.

WALLACE: And finally, we have less than a minute left, Reverend Jackson. Should Charlie Rangel make a deal with the House Ethics Committee to get House Democrats off the hook and avoid the spectacle of a public trial in the fall?

JACKSON: Well, there may not be a spectacle. It is his personal choice. I mean, if Charlie feels that he's innocent, he feels he will vindicate himself -- and so he may want to go through the due process route or he may make a political decision.

But those are his choice to make, and I respect Charlie Rangel for what he has done across these 30 years of public service.

WALLACE: Reverend Jackson, we want to thank you so much for coming in today. It's always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.