Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bill O'Reilly and Fairness for Shirley Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod was all over the mainstream media, and google search lists before I saw anything on Fox News. By the time I caught up wit the story it had blown up. From what I can tell, Shirley Sherrod is a sensitive and honest public servant who has been mistreated by many politicos on the right and the left. A number of people are taking some responsibility for their rush to judgment, among them Bill O'Reilly. The mainstream media can't be trusted to get the story right so here are O'Reilly's own words.

But as O'Reilly points out, there are some larger issues related to the whole incident.It is unlikely that those larger issues will be addressed because of the unfortunate and unfair way that Shirley Sherrod was initially treated. Those issues will get lost in the shuffle and any investigation will largely focus on issues over which the guilty parties, right and left, have already apologized for. Such is the nature of our politicized climate these days. Keep praying for better days and more unifying candidates.

Bracketed [ ] comments are my own.

Bill O'Reilly

Fairness For Shirley

This time last week, few Americans had ever heard of Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. Now she is a household name in households that actually follow the news. A few days ago, Sherrod was fired by the Obama administration for admitting that more than 20 years ago -- as an administrator in Georgia -- she did not treat a white farmer as fairly as she would have treated a black farmer. Her admission came as part of a speech she made before the NAACP in March. Sherrod is black.

The problem was Sherrod was relating the story as part of an epiphany she said she'd had. After mulling things over, she came to the conclusion that what she had done was wrong. Unfortunately, that message was overlooked in the initial reporting, and I was one of the culprits.

Regrettably, I did not examine the full transcript of Sherrod's remarks closely enough, and after hearing that the white farmer had been hosed, I said she should resign. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack [a Liberal] made the same mistake; so did the NAACP [mostly Liberal]. Like all Americans, Sherrod deserves to be treated fairly, and she should be reinstated at the Department of Agriculture. However, the situation deserves a top-to-bottom examination by the feds.

Shirley Sherrod is a longtime liberal activist who peppered her NAACP speech with racial references, such as this: "So I figured if I'd take (the farmer) to (a white lawyer), that his own kind would take care of him."

Own kind?

Now, we all make mistakes, and that just might be a harmless comment. But if a white federal official referred to an African-American by using the term "own kind," you know what would happen.

Then Sherrod went on to tell the NAACP audience this: "I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes, and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president."

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from endorsing political parties while on the job. Sherrod was invited to speak at the NAACP meeting because she was in the administration. So you make the call.

There are two main points here: First, Shirley Sherrod was not initially treated fairly by me, some other journalists, the NAACP or the Obama administration. She deserved better.

And secondly, Sherrod may not be a great fit for the USDA. She is obviously a very political person with a strong point of view. Public servants are supposed to look out for all the folks; it is tough for polarizing people to do that.

So this is a fascinating story on many levels. We have not heard the last of it.

Bill O'Reilly's Biography

Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor" and author of "Who's Looking Out For You?" and "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity."

No comments: