Shirley Sherrod was condemned by the NAACP and fired by the USDA on the basis of an edited video clip of her speech. This clip, posted by Andrew Breitbart, was selectively edited to show only what appeared to be racist comments. However, the entire clip reveals the truth.
Breitbart seems to have intended the clip as a return shot in response to the NAACP’s accusation that the Tea Party tolerates racism. The point was, of course, to show racism at a NAACP meeting, thus showing that the NAACP was inconsistent. Apparently Breitbart could not find actual evidence of racism, so perhaps he resorted to manufacturing the evidence by posting the edited version of the clip. If so, this is clearly a morally reprehensible act of deceit. If, however, he merely acted in ignorance of the full clip, then he would only be guilty of not engaging in proper research before posting the clip.
Of course, he would not be the only one guilty of a failure to do research. As noted above, the NAACP and the USDA rushed into action on the basis of the edited clip and not the full version. In what seems to be an effort to dodge blame, the NAACP now claims that they were snookered by Fox News. I would have thought that the folks in the NAACP would be aware of the nature of Fox News. As such, they should have been a bit more critical. In any case, they should not have relied on such a limited number of sources. After all, such a serious condemnation should have been backed up with equally serious research and due diligence. To fail to do so is both a professional and a moral failure. Blaming Fox in no way mitigates their responsibility.
The same applies to the USDA. While it is understandable that they would wish to act quickly, it is clear that they acted far too hastily. The source of the edited clip should have been considered and, of course, the entire clip should have been viewed. Such a review would not have taken very long and both professionalism and ethics demand that such a proper review take place before a person is fired.
While the clip probably did not have exactly the effect that Breitbart expected, the situation might be seen as a win for certain people. After all, the NAACP took a hit as did the Obama administration. On a more positive note, the situation did an excellent job of exposing how poorly charges of racism are handled. I would like to hope that this incident will result in some positive change, but I suspect the lesson will not stick.