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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/31/10

Hightower: Why Is No One Talking About the Real Tragedy Behind the Shirley Sherrod Fiasco?

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The Shirley Sherrod Story started innocently. It was a beautiful
anecdote of redemption and personal growth, which she related last year
at a meeting of the Georgia NAACP.

The story told by this black Agriculture Department official would have
ended there, unnoticed by the rest of us. But it was caught up by a
malicious political wind that swept it all the way to Washington. There,
it sucked up an enormous volume of political hot air, then burst into
the national news like a furious tornado, ripping the roofs from several
big houses of power to reveal a mess of ugliness within.

Ugly Number One is Andrew Breitbart, a notorious far-right-wing blogger
who is striving for his 15-minutes of infamy by intentionally
distorting, manipulating and lying about the actions of unsuspecting
people to create explosive political tales. He used a two-minute,
crudely edited clip from a video of Sherrod's 45-minute Georgia speech,
perverting her message to make her sound as if she had intentionally
discriminated against a white farmer 24 years ago. Breitbart distributed
the distorted video as "proof" that she and the NAACP are racists. The
guy is a disgusting creep.

Ugly Number Two are the Becks, Hannitys, O'Reillys and other
foam-at-the-mouth Fox TV blatherers. These shameless media muggers
gleefully and unquestioningly grabbed Breitbart's crap and hurled it
across America as "truth."

Ugly Number Three is the Barack Obama White House, which swallowed the
Breitbart-Fox false story whole and immediately dismissed Sherrod from
her federal job. They literally tracked her down in her car and forced
her to phone in her resignation, without letting her tell the true

To me, the Obama ugliness is the worst, for it reveals a shameful lack
of loyalty, fairness and feistiness. Like ACORN and Van Jones before,
Sherrod was under vicious and false attack from Obama's enemies -- but
the Obamites are so afraid of right-wing smear artists that they
instantly run from them, cravenly abandoning their friends. Hello -- if
you don't stand for your friends, who'll stand for you?

In the same week that Sherrod was falsely accused of anti-white racism,
the U.S. Senate actually compounded the insult with its own act of
anti-black racism. At issue was payment of a billion-dollar legal
settlement owed to thousands of African-American farmers who for decades
were illegally denied essential crop loans from the ag department.

The settlement of the farmers' lawsuit was agreed to way back in 1999 --
yet, for more than a decade, Washington has refused to pay.
African-American farmers -- including Sherrod's father -- were routinely
and grossly discriminated against. How gross? USDA loan officials spit
at them, threw their loan applications in the trash and caused
thousands to lose their farms.

To make matters worse, in 1983, the Ronald Reagan administration
actually eliminated funding for the division of the USDA that was
supposed to investigate these farmers' claims of discrimination. No
investigators, no investigations, no loans, no justice -- neat.

This year, however, justice was finally to be delivered to the farmers,
for President Obama set aside $1.2 billion in his budget to make good on
the government promise. But, no go, for congressional Republicans have
furiously fought the payments.

Of course, the GOP solons insisted that they certainly support racial
justice, but alas, they wailed, the bloated federal deficit now compels
them to cut spending. Never mind that they are the chief bloaters! In
the past decade, they eagerly and recklessly added trillions of dollars
to the national debt with unwarranted wars, tax cuts for the rich,
bailouts for Wall Street and subsidies for enormously profitable

Indeed, these very lawmakers continue to support $4 billion a year in
needless giveaways to Big Oil -- but they abruptly turn into tightwad on
a single billion-dollar allocation owed to America's black farmers.

So while pundits and politicos were vilifying Sherrod for an act of
discrimination that did not occur, Senate Republicans cut the payments
for thousands of official acts of actual discrimination. How's that for
bitter irony? Yet Republican leaders wonder why they get practically no
black support in elections.
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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.

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