Fox News host Glenn Beck is coming to the defense of Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official forced to resign after a videotape surfaced of her making what appeared to be racially charged remarks about a white farmer.
On his program Tuesday Beck said Sherrod deserved an opportunity to tell her side of the story before being fired.
"They didn't watch the whole video?" Beck asked. "When was the last time the NAACP didn't give someone the benefit of the doubt right away who was African-American? Again I point out the Black Panthers. Now if she is just relating a story from 1986, to make a point about how her racial perceptions changed, this woman deserves her job back."
The encounter that triggered the uproar occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, well before Sherrod joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the videotape, Sherrod is seen relating the story earlier this year to an NAACP audience.
She said when a white farmer asked for her help in saving his farm, and talked "superior" to her, she "didn't give him the full force of what I could do."
But Sherrod said the remarks that led to her resignation were taken out of context and selectively edited.
Earlier in the day, Sherrod told CNN that the White House "harassed" her to resign because it the controversy was "going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."
"They were not interested in hearing the truth," Sherrod said of the administration. "No one wanted to hear the truth."
Sherrod said the whole point of her story was learning to not judge a person based on race.
"All of that process, that's why I tell it," Sherrod told CNN, "because [of] everything that happened in dealing with him. He was the first white farmer who had come to me for help. Everything I did working with him helped me to see that it wasn't about race. It's about those who have, and those who don't."
Eloise Spooner, the wife of the farmer who sought Sherrod's assistance, called Sherrod "a good friend" in the CNN interview, adding: "She helped us save our farm … by getting in there and doing all she could do to help us."
Spooner said Sherrod had helped keep the family out of bankruptcy.
Despite the Spooners' support, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the decision to demand Sherrod's resignation.
Vilsack said the department was trying to overcome a "sordid civil rights record" at USDA, and reiterated that the agency has "zero tolerance for discrimination." If Sherrod stayed on, Vilsack added, she would have difficulty carrying out her duties.
The NAACP initially blasted Sherrod, calling her actions "shameful." It quickly backtracked Tuesday as the full story emerged.
NAACP president Benjamin Jealous released the following statement: "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."
Jealous has reportedly asked the Agriculture Department to reconsider Sherrod's dismissal.
The controversy doesn't stop there, however. Sherrod is indicating it was the White House, not the Agriculture Department, that demanded she resign.
"They asked me to resign, and, in fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia yesterday," Sherrod said. "I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign…and the last one asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it."
The Obama administration maintains the decision to demand Sherrod's resignation came from the Agriculture Department.
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