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Shirley Sherrod: casualty of escalating 'tea party'-NAACP race spat?

Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her Agriculture Department post for comments in a video posted online that shows she discriminated against a white farmer, conservatives say. The video makes Shirley Sherrod the newest focal point of a race-baiting feud between the left and right.

By Staff writer / July 20, 2010

In this YouTube screenshot, Shirley Sherrod delivers an address to a NAACP awards banquet on March 27.




Shirley Sherrod has become the latest face to symbolize a summer of mounting racial discontent.

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Ms. Sherrod, who is the US Department of Agriculture's rural development director in Georgia, was forced to resign Monday when a four-month-old video surfaced online, spawning claims that she discriminated against a white farmer.

In the video, Sherrod addresses an NAACP awards dinner, saying that she did not give the white farmer asking for her help "the full force of what I could do."

IN PICTURES: Tea Parties

The video – an edited, 2-1/2 minute excerpt from the speech – was released by conservative web publisher Andrew Breitbart and appears to be part of an escalating feud between ideologues on the left and right, with each accusing the other of being racist.

Moreover, the hasty demand for Sherrod's resignation – Sherrod says she had to pull over to the side of the road Monday afternoon and tender her resignation via her BlackBerry – hints at the effects of what's become a protracted media war, where aggressive outlets find that their potshots can cause heads to roll.

The feud began in earnest last week when the NAACP accused the "tea party" of harboring racists within the movement. Shortly afterward, Mark Williams, the leader of a tea party group called the Tea Party Express, wrote a mock letter from NAACP head Ben Jealous to Abraham Lincoln that stated, in part, "Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

The National Tea Party Federation banned Mr. Williams and his group because of the letter.

Now the Sherrod video is emerging as a counterpoint to the Williams letter. Some conservatives say the video proves lingering suspicions about the Obama administration: that it has been far more responsive to complaints by minorities – especially blacks – than those by whites.

White farmer defends Sherrod

The charge against Sherrod, however, has been rebuffed by the white farmer at the center of the controversy, Roger Spooner. Speaking on CNN, he said Sherrod "did her level best" to help him and credited her with saving his farm. Asked if Sherrod was a racist, he said: "Heck, no."