The Shirley Sherrod he knew
By Michael Jonas
It is a mild understatement to say there is plenty that initial media reports and the Obama administration had wrong about Shirley Sherrod. But the lessons involve more than just the unconscionable failure to conduct even the most basic vetting of the story, which was peddled by a right-wing blogger with a history of loose attachment to facts and balanced reporting.Neither the leaders of the media mob nor the Obama functionaries who carried out Sherrod’s summary execution bothered to assemble the most basic biography of the target of their feeding frenzy. The same apparently was true for the national NAACP leadership that joined the rush to judgment.
That history certainly doesn’t preclude the possibility that she might have made discriminatory remarks, as the original reports based on a brief video clip of her speech suggested. But it provides the kind of background that reporters should be gathering as they ask questions, make judgments, and check the plausibility of stories, knowing from experience that things aren’t always what they initially appear to be.