Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shirley Sherrod, Agriculture official, dismissed for remarks taken out of context; plays sweet lemons with apology

The dismissal of Shirley Sherrod, a mid-level official at the Department of Agriculture, raised questions about how what kind of “due process” government political appointees should get when their public comments are taken out of context.

Back in March 2010, Sherrod spoke about an apparent incident of “reverse discrimination” in Georgia farm policy back in 1986, where she reversed her own position. But conservatives extracted her comments out of context as if to make her look like she was discriminating today (not 1986), and posted a partial excerpt of the speech with misleading intent on conservative blogs, picked up by Fox.

She was called by a DofA official and told to pull over by the side of the road and type her resignation on her Blackberry. The decision to fire came from Secretary of Agriculture Ted Vilsack but backed up by the president.

It’s interesting that the Department of Agriculture has a “pre-publication review” policy for employees, even off duty, here.

The website “Daily KOS” has a piece “reinstate Shirley Sherrod” here, by Ted Lewison.

The NAACP has issued a statement proposing that the Agriculture Secretary should reconsider, here.

Update: July 22

Here is the complete text and video of Sherrod's banquet speech in March 2010, link, as presented by a site named "American Rhetoric", an address at the NAACP 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet.

Sherrod appeared on ABC's "The View" on July 23 and gave the details of the phone calls and resignation demand while she was driving in Georgia. She discussed the apology and new offer, and is playing wait-and-see ("sour grapes" or "sweet lemons", perhaps).

CBS News reports that Sherrod told her she was considering legal actiona against Bretibart, link to CBS story here. It's not clear what the legal basis would be; it's not really defamation; it's a kind of "false light" but there's no real invasion of "privacy".  Breitbart said his piece was a reaction to NAACP attacks on the libertarianesque "Tea Party" movement.  Breitbart's site has a long list of references to Sherrod now, making the original hard to find; link.

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