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A Summer Snookering

Updated

The NAACP says it was “snookered” by Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. CNN has hopped on to every aspect of the Shirley Sherrod story. Even Glenn Beck says that she shouldn’t have lost her job.

A video that appeared to show Sherrod, an official of the USDA, admitting that she didn’t want to help out a Georgia farmer because he was white instead turned out to say the total opposite. The farmer says she was responsible for saving his farm. And in context, she was talking about her journey from seeing everything through the prism of race when instead she should have seen it through rich or poor.

What’s puzzling is that even the edited video, run initially on Breitbart’s Big Government and on Fox News shows, begs for context, but that didn’t stop the NAACP from issuing a press release condemning her remarks and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, with the White House’s support, firing her. (Judge for yourself: The edited clip is here and the full speech is here.) It’s as if anything longer than 140 characters provides all the proof that is needed, no matter that the Obama administration has had a history of gripes and suspicions about Fox News’ coverage.

This certainly isn’t the first rush to judgment when it comes to race, but it speaks to just how volatile it has become heading into the midterms, as this whole episode smacks of a back-and-forth between Tea Partiers and the NAACP. (It probably isn’t even going to settle the controversy over Sherrod, as there’s a gap in the middle of her remarks that the NAACP says is merely when the camera person was switching tapes. Let’s see if that holds up to conspiracy theorists).

If there’s a “teachable moment,” to use a phrase used a year ago when the Henry Louis Gates-Cambridge police confrontation exploded a year ago, it’s to verify, no matter if it’s coming from the left or right.

NAACP President Ben Jealous said in a statement, “Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding.  The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed.  This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.”

Update: Jealous tells Rachel Maddow, “We made a mistake here.”

He says that Sherrod’s speech was “a story of transformation, a story of healing.”

He says that since the NAACP started criticism of the Tea Party last week, they have received more than 100 death threats.

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