Archive for Friday, July 23, 2010

Just the facts

An embarrassing situation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week could have been avoided if someone had pursued the facts before rushing to judgment.

July 23, 2010


Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to introduce his famous comment segments by saying “And now, the rest of the story.”

Maybe Harvey could have helped out news outlets and especially U.S. Department of Agriculture officials who jumped on a videotape this week of now-former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod.

Sherrod submitted her resignation Monday at the request of her superiors soon after they became aware of a 38-second videotape of some remarks Sherrod made to a local NAACP chapter in Georgia some 20 years ago. The video was posted online by a blogger who reportedly wanted to make a point about racism in the NAACP.

In the video, Sherrod, a black woman, was telling a story about how she initially hesitated to be as helpful as she could to a white farmer who was seeking assistance.

The tape seemed damning, but here’s “the rest of the story.” A viewing of the full videotape make it clear Sherrod was telling the story to make the point that working with this farmer had helped her realize that “it wasn’t a black and white issue.” The farm couple confirmed that Sherrod not only had helped them save their farm but also became their friend.

Unfortunately, that part of the story didn’t travel nearly as quickly as the 38-second video. News outlets picked up the video and passed it along. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack saw the videotape and said Sherrod must resign. No one wanted to take the time to listen to Sherrod or pursue other facts in the case.

The result was an extremely embarrassing situation for Vilsack and the Obama administration. Vilsack made a public apology to Sherrod on Wednesday and admitted that he made a decision without knowing all the facts. “I am accepting the responsibility with deep regret,” he said.

Vilsack and others are trying to distance President Obama from the decision, but Obama also called Sherrod on Thursday to apologize. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama had been briefed on the situation and acknowledged “an injustice had happened and, because the facts had changed, a review of the decision based on those facts should be taken.”

Gibbs usually chooses his words carefully, but he picked the wrong one this time. The “facts” of this case hadn’t changed at all. Facts don’t change. The problem here is that no one bothered to find out the facts before “an injustice” was committed.

Sherrod has been offered a new job at the USDA — probably a promotion with higher pay. Understandably, she has indicated she’ll have to think it over.

The Sherrod situation has caused a lot of discussion about racism and racial relations in the United States. The country needs to have more such discussions. However, the real message in this situation has more to do with fairness. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it also opens up many opportunities to present “facts” without bothering with “the rest of the story.”

Even if it takes an extra day, it’s up to officials to make sure they have all the information they need before making potentially embarrassing decisions. Vilsack and other members of the Obama administration learned that lesson the hard way this week.


John Kyle 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree. It's a shame this 'article' doesn't even mention who instigated this fraud. Instead it puts all the blame on the Obama administration.

dutchjohan 7 years, 10 months ago

I say fire Sherrod, look into her background. She has a daughter named Russia, a son named Kenyatta and her husband was a prominent member of students for non violent action, a forerunner of the black panthers. Be real people, read the history of the Weimar republic, of course, most folks have never heard of the Weimar republic, but we are now in the same stage as that Republic and follow what happened. dutch

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

yes. In fact just last night Rachel Maddow said she had made an incorrect statement a few days before and went to lengths to explain the correction and the facts. She apologized for the error. She does the EVERY time, which is rare because her research is thorough to begin with.

Yeah, I know, ya hate her guts. Ever watch her show? Never, ever, not never does any network twist the truth and promote a specific political ideology as much as fox does. Even fox admits that. Reporting based on real research (they used to call that journalism) may seem liberal to those who get their daily news sucker from fox. It isn't.

Ralph Reed 7 years, 10 months ago

More of a backhanded apology, Tom. O'reilly said he owed Shirley Sherrod an apology and did provide one. However, he then added that she did not belong in government service, but rather in some backwater non-profit. He gave with one hand and then went on to insult her with the other. That doesn't qualify as apologizing "up one side and down the other." I see it as "Spinning" in the "No-Spin Zone."

As an added note, Faux News jumped on the bandwagon and was crowing that Pres Obama's administration was correct in their 'quick and decisive action.' Then, when the apology came out, they slammed him for acting before "he" had all the facts. (You can't have it both ways.) They forgot that it was as internal USDA matter with the initial decision made by Secretary Vilsack. Only after the full video came out was the entire incident brought and the facts did change (change also means new information added to that which you already have), did the administration apologize.

In answer to your last question, yes, I have seen the "liberal media" apologize. When they are wrong, CNN does apologize. I've never seen Faux News apologize. The LJW (a conservative newspaper endorsing Republican politicians) seldom apologizes - I can count on one hand the retractions I've seen over the past ten years.

I'll talk about Breitbart later. I'm headed to lunch and don't want to start off with a sour stomach to begin with. But, in initial response to your later comment, he is not just a "blogger, more or less." (Curious about what you meant by that last bit; could you elucidate, please?) He is instead a self-avowed enemy of all liberals, President Obama and the current administration. In essence he's a very adept propagandist (a la Joseph Goebbels).

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

If you're going to quantify you need to provide the data. How do you arrive at the number 10. Sure its not 8? or 2? or about even? And define irresponsible. Spreading lies like 'death panels' and 'death taxes' and the citizenship of the President, and ridiculous fears of 'Socialism' and 'Communism' without ever providing the facts or the full story seems irresponsible to me. And tell us just who this 'far left' is. The real far left is a very small, politically insignificant few focused on single issues. I think you continually mistake left leaning moderates as 'far-left' radicals. That is unfortunate because it blinds you to the fact that we are not as divided in our visions for our country as the wedge political strategists would have us believe.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

actually " now you know the rest of the story" was at the end of th comentary.

olddognewtrix 7 years, 10 months ago

It is unfortunate that this editorial criticizes the Obama Administration and says nothing about Breitharts malicious and false light blog, nor does it criticize Fox News for spreading the phony video as gospel truth. The editorial writer does not live up to the stndards of the prize winning LJW

For those who wish to read a more acurate and fair editorial on the matter go to the 7-21-10 editorial in the Manhattan Mercury where it was stated: "Mr Breithart and those whose appetite he feeds ought to crawl in the holes they came from."

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

That's the trouble with entertainment news = no accountability!

Rock_Bottom 7 years, 10 months ago

Hey Artie, This story is about a governmental agency passing judgment without getting all the facts, and that's exactly what you did. Paul Harvey stories started with a description of a story from the news, then, as mentioned above, after a pause, would continue with, "And now... for the rest of the story...". He would then go into details that helped put the story in a proper perspective. When he was finished he would conclude with, "And now you know... the rest of the story..." And now YOU know... The rest of the story... Good... Day!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

Worth repeating: It's kinda funny how high Axelrod's puppet jumped when Fox News said "frog".

Unreal 7 years, 10 months ago

"Mr Breithart and those whose appetite he feeds ought to crawl in the holes they came from." Couldn't have said it better myself. The manipulation of Fox News and this idiot Breithart is sickening. Fox News was hell-bent on this woman being held accountable for her actions and demanded this. Then, when the administration acted (sadly they trusted Fox News and should have know better!), now somehow they are the villians here. What a joke. I just hope if there's one thing that came out of all this nonsense was that no one will trust Fox News anymore -- not that many people did anyway.

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh for cryin' out loud. One. Obama did not himself fire this woman nor did he direct anyone to do so. Nor did anyone in the White House. They found out about it after the fact. Who's looking into the Cook woman who was the one demanding Sherrod's resignation and fueling the fire under Vilsak?

And fox did not 'only report on the firing'. They were all over it, as was CNN, demanding she be fired or resign. Totally up in arms about it. Next day, they changed their tune and slammed Obama directly for 'his' handling of the situation. Same old game.

The problem is it wasn't a 'new's report'. And Fox does this over and over again. Remember the Acorn prostitution thing? Total fabrication. And the result is millions of low income Americans lost a voice and advocate for their rights. And the Fox website published info on the Sherrod thing WHILE Brightfart was on the air. They were complicit in the the whole thing.

Obama is far from incompetent. The opposition of No's is just doing a darn good job of taking every opportunity to make our country's recovery impossible. They are the ones who are taking paychecks for doing absolutely nothing. By the way, that's your money they're wasting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"This administration DID fire this lady based on information that was not verified or investigated."

It was based on information that was fabricated by Breitbart and his sponsors at Fox.

"Why is it so hard for you to hold this administration accountable for yet another misstep due to poor decision-making? "

They are accountable, and they offered an apology and a job offer to Sherrod for their mistakes.

"If ACORN was fabricated why did they lose funding and why were there many convictions?"

ACORN has never been convicted of anything. A few contract workers filed false voter registrations, and were reported BY ACORN to the proper authorities, and they were convicted. There have been at least three high-level investigations of the Pimp-And-Prositute story, and all have exonerated ACORN (but you'll never hear that on Fox, will you?)

Their funding was cut for the same reason Sherrod was fired. Hysterical, false reporting by Breitbart and Fox scared some politicians in making a hasty, bad decision. There have already been court decisions that state this targeting of ACORN'ds funding is unconstitutional.

"What about Van Jones?"

What about him? He was just another target of Fox hysteria, and shameless politicians thought it was easier to get rid of him than defend him.

"Are these all fabrications?"

Pretty much. But they support what you want to believe, so you swallow it whole.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

There are multiple sources available to you if you want to spend a few minutes googling them-- but you won't hear any of it on Fox.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

You don't want other sources. You're happy believing the lying BS from Fox. Even if I gave you sources, you wouldn't read them.

So run along before the other sheep in the flock miss you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

Here's a link you can ignore. (But it's not from Fox, so I know you won't believe any of it, even if you do take the time to read it.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

" I do not believe what is written in this link."

Their political perspective is irrelevant. Either it accurately reported the facts, or it didn't.

It just so happens that it did accurately report the facts, but you'll never know, because you prefer to be lied to by Fox rather than to broaden the range of your news sources.

BTW, "lying" didn't used to be one of the defining characteristics of what it meant to be a conservative. Too bad Fox, Rush, et al haven't so damaged the conservative political tradition of this country, perhaps irreparably.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

Credible is in the eye of the beholder, and you choose not to find credible any source that reports facts you don't like.

Ralph Reed 7 years, 10 months ago

@AppleJack, re: your 1256. It's a realistic mindset, not a "liberal mindset." Breithart lied and Faux News ran with the ball.

Here's a link to a timeline at Media Matters. Makes for interesting reading.

@alcon complaining that the "liberal media" never apologizes, I have yet to hear of Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh apologizing. I didn't include O'Reilly as he did apologize, albeit it was a back-handed apology

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 10 months ago

What really bothers me is that the Obama Administration should certainly be keenly aware that the National Republican Terrorist Party is out to get them in any way possible. Their outlets, Limbaugh, Beck, and other extremist right wing ideologues have never ceased to attack and dinigrate the lawfully elected president and his administration. Obama and his crew should have been very aware that the Republican Terrorist organizations would stoop to anything to try to discredit the lawfully elected government administration. I am very concerned that this happened, and I know that the president is embarressed that one of his people became a loose cannon. These things happen in any organization, but he should certainly make his people aware of the vicious tenacity, much like that of the similar Al Quida model, of the Republican Terrorist organizations that seek to destroy him by any and all means necessary.

MBH12 7 years, 10 months ago

This story was all snap and crackle with no pop...and everyone fell into the trap. Stories like this one do not happen by accident. What happened this week? The signing into law of financial reform and consumer protection was obliterated from the public psyche by a story about nothing...

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

absolutely. Three major pieces of legislation. Obama had to call a news conference at noon to remind people of what's important. Excellent piece on Maddow this evening about how the extraordinary number of major accomplishments of this administration are being ignored.

MBH12 7 years, 10 months ago

Among the accomplishments of this administration are the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Hate Crimes Bill, and a new START treaty... Not everything the President has worked for has been "drunken sailor spending."

Mixolydian 7 years, 10 months ago

Sherrod has steadfastly maintained that she was told the presure for her forced resignation came from the White House. Whether that meant Obama or Immanuel or Axelrod, or someone else, who knows.

The question remains, who's lying:

  1. Sherrod
  2. Vilsack
  3. The White House

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

Does it matter? The gig is up, everything is about race now. I don't care what she said or didn't say, but the white house did. It is all obout appearences don't you know. Why would she go back anyway. Tell em to stick it & write a book.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

It was Fox and Breitbart who "resurrected" (created, actually) this particular race issue. Are you now saying that they are "leftists?"

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

Like I said; If I were her I would simply say " No thanks" and get the heck away from the trap. I woyuld not acccept a apology not would I take that or any other job yhey offered.

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

Or the woman named Cook who was the one who called on her to resign. If this were a mystery story, the famed detective would have his eye on her.

ENGWOOD 7 years, 10 months ago

Holy crap Osom err Obama so far hasn't said that he inherited this from the previous administration. What a miscarriage this administration is.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh, I just love a resounding chorus of "But ... but ... but ... that's different!!!"

Fox News is all wrong and should be 'banned' because they did a news story without adequately checking their facts. The weasel-in-chief and his administration get a pass for actually taking action on the story (whether it was from the original blog or from Fox's report) without adequately checking the facts, to the extent of firing an apparently competent federal employee.




Strange - I don't recall any of our dear liberal brethren expressing such outrage and calling for a 'ban' on CBS or 60 minutes after the infamous George Bush military "records" story.

Oh, sorry, forgot:

"But ... but ... but ... that's different!!!"

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

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notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

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Corey Williams 7 years, 10 months ago

That would be "fascinating"

And that's why you don't get taken very seriously, mutt.

independent_rebel 7 years, 10 months ago

People and Sheeple...uh, to me, the very fact that this woman even considered denying the white farmer because of his race is enough to kick her ass out. I can't believe how people walk away from the truth and instead fight over what news outlet ran the story or didn't, or what parts were left out.

The only evidence we need to find her guilty came from her own mouth. Instead, we get distracted by the liberal media vs. conservative media and how the video was cropped. Who cares? Both sides are guilty of taking quotes out of context. In this case, nothing was taken out of context. It doesn't matter that she, in the end, helped out this farmer. What does matter is that she would even consider denying him based on his race. She admitted she had that thought. I find it impossible to believe that at some point she hasn't followed through with that thought. If we had a respectable media in this country they would be going after that story and not waste our time over what was left in or out of her video.

The facts are clear. This woman is a bigot and should not be in office. That she would even consider to deny the farmer due to his race is sufficient reason for her to never be employed in a job paid by taxpayers. Yes, there are others in both parties and of all races we can same the same thing about.

independent_rebel 7 years, 10 months ago

No, what I'm saying is not an opinion. She is a bigot. Great, in the end she found it was not beneath her to help out a white dude afterall...but...from her own mouth she admitted that her first inclination was to deny the white farmer assistance simply because he was white and to hell with him, let his own (white) people help his butt.

Now, we have people falling all over themselves to apologize to her because when the story and video first hit the media it didn't show the part where, in the end, she did help out the white farmer.

Now we have the typical left media vs. right media battle about who did or didn't show what, and what they knew, etc..

She's a bigot, most likely a racist, and that is proven by the fact, from her own mouth, that she even entertained denying him simply because the farmer was white.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

So I guess the only people qualified to be in office would be those who never have an impure thought.

Good luck finding those people.

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

You know that her father was killed by the KKK? You can not ask that every person be completely color blind and to unremember their past. You can't, I'm sure. Neither can I. The point is, she confronted her first tendency, examined it, found it wrong and proceeded to provide the service and help the farmer needed. She had a personal transformation. That is noble and good. We have to celebrate when people change for the better, and not hold them to standards we ourselves can't uphold.

Remember also, we're talking rural Georgia. A very different culture than our Kansas white bread basket.

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