In case you’re just tuning in, Andrew Breibart, who is a conservative blogger and one of the forces behind the railroading of the demise of ACORN last year, came out with a “shocking” video of a USDA official, Shirley Sherrod, allegedly telling an audience at an NAACP meeting how she willfully discriminated against a white farmer. Much bloviation ensued from the Orcosphere, the NAACP demanded that Ms. Sherrod be fired, the Obama administration went into defense mode, Ms. Sherrod resigned, and the righties claimed another scalp.
Except it turns out that — wait for it — Mr. Breitbart only posted two minutes of edited video to smear Ms. Sherrod and admits that he never saw the entire 43-minute tape. What the full tape shows is that Ms. Sherrod told the story of dealing with a white farmer and his troubles to make a point about how she learned that all poor farmers, white or black, need help; that the experience was a life lesson for her and made her a better person; and that she actually saved the farm. In addition, the incident she was talking about happened in 1986, nearly a quarter of a century ago, long before she went to work for the USDA.
Now that the whole story has been revealed, the NAACP has retreated and apologized to Ms. Sherrod, saying they got “snookered” by the video and Fox News, and now Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says he will reconsider Ms. Sherrod’s situation.
We will see if the Obama administration does the right thing and re-instates Ms. Sherrod. Meanwhile, as Rachel Maddow points out, it’s happened again: the right wing cooks up a story, hollers it into the headlines, people fall for it, the Beltway Villagers go into freak mode, innocent people get hurt, and it all turns out to be a big fat lie. But the damage is done; no matter what happens — even if Ms. Sherrod gets her job back and Andrew Breitbart is once again thoroughly discredited — there will still be the stain and the sting, and years from now you’ll still be getting forwarded e-mails from your right-winger uncle who will claim to have the “real truth” about the “whole story.” And, as Rachel Maddow also points out, it will happen again.
But you really have to wonder why a lot of people were so quick to believe the lie and jump to conclusions. For the righties, it’s pretty easy; they are always looking to find something to nail the Obama administration on, especially after the Tea Party got their tails all puffed up by being told off by the NAACP; the timing of the release of the video is exquisite. But for the rest of us, it’s all too clear that we’re willing to believe the worst and do very little to make the amends. And that’s the harsh truth. As Adam Serwer notes, “Both the conservative reaction to the NAACP and the broad rush to condemn Sherrod reveal one damning detail about our particular cowardice on race: We are more far more [sic] worried about being seen as racist than we are about being good human beings. And that is fucking cowardly.”