From the AJC.com:
The wife of the white farmer allegedly discriminated against by the USDA’s rural development director for Georgia said Shirley Sherrod “kept us out of bankruptcy.”
Eloise Spooner, 82, awoke Tuesday to discover that Sherrod had lost her job after videotaped comments she made in March at a local NAACP banquet surfaced on the web.
Sherrod, who is black, told the crowd she didn’t do everything she could to help a white farmer whom she said was condescending when he came to her for aid. She said the video was selectively edited but regardless U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was adamant that she resign.
“What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him,” Sherrod said in the video, recorded March 27 in Douglas in southeast Georgia.
But Spooner, who considers Sherrod a “friend for life,” said the federal official worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.
“Her husband told her, ‘You’re spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,’ ” Spooner told the AJC. “She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out.”
Spooner called Sherrod Tuesday morning.
“She’s very sad about it,” Spooner said. “She told me she was so glad we talked. I just can’t believe this is happening to her.”
Sherrod told the AJC the damning video was selectively edited. She said the video posted online Monday by biggovernment.com and reported on by FoxNews.com and the AJC completely misconstrued the message she was trying to convey.
“For Fox to take a spin on this like they have done, and know it’s not the truth … it’s very upsetting,” said Sherrod, 62, who insisted her statements in the video were not racist. “I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.”
Sherrod noted that few news reports have mentioned that the story she told happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.
“And I went on to work with many more white farmers,” she said. “The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.”
Responding to what he knew of the video Monday evening, Atlanta NAACP chapter president R.L. White recalled many years of unfair treatment against minority farmers when he told the AJC that the footage, at face value, “does suggest unfair treatment.”
“The playing table should be leveled,” said White, who wasn’t at the March event. “Everyone, regardless of race, creed or color, should be treated same way, regardless of the race of the administrator.”
Vilsack announced Sherrod’s resignation in a statement released to Fox News Monday night.
“There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person,” Vilsack said in the statement.