Firing of Shirley Sherrod Demostrates Why Right Wing Smears Should Not Be Taken Seriously

Hopefully the premature firing of Shirley Sherrod has been a learning experience for all involved–especially anyone who pays attention to right wing smear campaigns. Media Maters has prepared a time line of the whole affair. To summarize quickly, Sherrod became a target of Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart, like Fox and other conservative attack dogs, uses material taken out of context to attack his targets. He prepared a 2 minute 38 seconds video clip which gives the impression that Sherrod, a black employee of the Department of Agriculture, was refusing to help a white farmer because of his race. The right wing noise machine quickly used this to claim there was racial discrimination in the department.

The full video provides a totally different story as described by AP:

A complete, 43-minute version of the video surfaces the next day, Tuesday, and casts a much different light on Shirley Sherrod’s comments: They were part of an NAACP speech about how she overcame her racial prejudice to help the farmer, not about prejudice that stopped her from helping him.

You would think that by now people would realize that you cannot pay any attention to such right wing smear campaigns. Unfortunately the Obama administration, which certainly should have known better, paid attention to the initial attack and Sherrod was fired. Subsequently the full story came out with both Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and President Obama offering apologies. Sherrod was also offered another job.

The publicity surrounding this might have created a tipping point where more people recognize the dishonesty of the right wing noise machine in mind. This will hopefully lead to fewer people taking them seriously when they launch their next smear campaign, along with realizing that taking quotes out of context to suggest an entirely different meaning is a common strategy employed on the right.