Can the Obama administration be so shamelessly unethical? The firing of Shirley Sherrod by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack

Until Monday Shirley Sherrod was a low-level political appointee working in Georgia for the Department of Agriculture. A right-wing website posted a videotape appearing to show Sherrod saying she refused help to a farmer save his farm because he was white. Fox News played it endlessly, with all the fair and balanced commentators screaming racism and demanding Sherrod’s head.

The NAACP bit and denounced Sherrod’s apparent racism, and Agriculture Tom Vilsack pushed her out—all the way out—of government employment. The White House announced that the President supported Vilsack’s decision.

As the old saying goes, it was all lies, including the words an and the. The video had been edited to turn Sherrod’s remarks 180 degrees. She had been telling her personal tale of growth out of racism. She had thought of not helping the white farmer, identified in several news reports as Roger Spooner, then realized that the issue was rich and poor, not white and black, and had gone to great lengths to help him save his farm. And the whole thing took place 24 years ago, long before she entered government service.The video was of her telling her story to an NAACP meeting to inspire her audience to rise above racism.

The white farmer supported her version, saying she saved his farm and is the best person he’s ever known. The NAACP president apologized for the organization’s rush to (mis-) judgment, blaming Fox for “snookering” them.

But Ms Sherrod, who seems saintly in her rejection of racism and of anger, remains fired.

Two things are incomprehensible to me. Secretary Vilsack is sticking by his decision, and the White House says that Obama supports him.

Could they possibly know something about Sherrod that hasn’t been made public yet? If not they better apologize very quickly for what sure looks like a terrible injustice, and correct it. It’s the depth of unethical behavior to mistakenly harm someone, then refuse to admit your mistake and fail to correct the harm.

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5 Responses to “Can the Obama administration be so shamelessly unethical? The firing of Shirley Sherrod by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack”

  1. Jack Marshall Says:

    Bob: I guarantee that the logic is this: she admits she ONCE used bias against a white man, and because of other clumsy and and seemingly biased actions by the Administration, she’s going to be sacrificed to “prove” accusations of bias elsewhere are false.

    I believe this Administration is ruthlessly political, and this is just the most recent example.

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    Can I buy a piece of that guarantee? Maybe a CDO? If they sacrifice her it’ll be deadly political–They’ll go up a half-point with the Fox crowd and down 30 with the Obama crowd. I’m sunnily believing they’ll do the right thing.

  3. Ethics Bob Says:

    And this just in from AP (1145 PDT):

    USDA reconsiders employee ouster over race remarks
    By BEN EVANS and MARY CLARE JALONICK (AP) – 50 minutes ago
    WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he will reconsider the department’s decision to oust a black employee over racially tinged remarks after learning more about what she said.
    Vilsack said in a statement early Wednesday morning that he will “conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts” about his decision to ask Shirley Sherrod to resign.

  4. The Worden Report Says:

    Were the journalists in the Sherrod affair so much different than the blogger? Moreover, are bloggers who provide news not journalists as the “journalists” claimed after getting the story wrong? http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/1005/

  5. Ethics Bob Says:

    Ah, the blogger was malicious; the journalists were careless. But my point wasn’t to blame the blogger for being malicious–we could have known that. Nor to blame the journalists for being careless–what else is new?

    I blamed Secretary Vilsack, who we pay to act responsibly. He acted cruelly, and he hurt Sherrod and Obama. His apology was admirable, but it doesn’t make up for his mistake. He’ll have to–as he said–bear that responsibility for a long time.

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