Video: Sherrod says incident didn't occur at USDA

The USDA political appointee pushed into resigning over a tape from a 2009 NAACP awards dinner now claims that the incident she described in the speech didn’t occur at the USDA but almost a quarter-century earlier at a nonprofit. Shirley Sherrod tells CNN that she tried to explain the anecdote to the Obama administration, but that the White House was too frightened of “Fox and the Tea Party” to listen to her explanation:

Sherrod told CNN on Tuesday the incident she discusses in the clip took place more than two decades ago, and she recounted it to an audience to make the point that people should move beyond race.

“I was telling the story of how working with him helped me to see the issue is not about race,” she said. “It’s about those who have versus those who do not have.”

Sherrod said Tuesday that her remarks were taken out of context.

“I was speaking to that group, like I’ve done many groups, and I tell them about a time when I thought the issue was race and race only,” Sherrod said on CNN’s “American Morning” from her home in Albany, Georgia. The incident took place in 1986, while she worked for a nonprofit and before she joined the Agriculture Department, she said.

Be sure to note the word only in Sherrod’s explanation.  As I wrote yesterday, it did appear that Sherrod was starting to make a point in the clip about eschewing ethnic identity politics in order to focus on poverty. However, she then doubles back and says, “It is about white and black” as well as poverty. The point of her story wound up being that it was about both, a view that puts her outside of the mainstream — and apparently outside of the Obama administration’s comfort zone for honesty.

The larger point here, though, is not so much Sherrod’s speech but the embrace that her message had at the NAACP.  No one in this tape is heard objecting to her admission of giving short shrift to a client based on his skin color. Even the NAACP wound up pointing that out as “disturbing” in their initial response to the Sherrod tape:

Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.

We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.

The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.

We thank those who brought this to our national office’s attention, as there are hundreds of local fundraising dinners each year.

I think the NAACP and the White House acted wisely in this case. It’s impossible to argue with that statement, and kudos to them for resisting the urge to circle the wagons.

Greg Hengler notes that this isn’t CNN’s only bite at the apple for this story. John Roberts and Kiran Chetry do a passable job in presenting the argument, but later, Tony Harris goes into full softball mode:

Sherrod and others can complain about Fox News and the editing of the tape, but two points should be remembered. First, Andrew Breitbart made it clear to me last night that this was the entirety of the speech he had in his possession. He also wants to find the whole speech and is trying to get it. Second, this has a lot more substantiation and evidence of racism than what the Journolist attempted to cook up against Fred Barnes and Karl Rove, among others — or for that matter, what the NAACP has to accuse the Tea Party movement as a whole of being racist.