How the Press Factored in on Shirley Sherrod's Resignation
Cheryl Cook obtained Shirley Sherrod's resignation, by lying to her. Three times Cheryl Cook told Shirley Sherrod that the White House demanded her resignation. This was a lie according to the White House, and her boss, Tom Vilsack. The third, and final time, Cheryl Cook demanded Shirley Sherrod's resignation, she added to the authority of the White Houses, the sensational idea that Shirley Sherrod was going to be on Glenn Beck that night! Like the White House demand, the Glenn Beck statement was also a lie. The Glenn Beck Show did not do a story on Shirley Sherrod that night, and when Glenn Beck learned of that assertion, he said that he was unaware of the story, when that assertion was made.
Shirley Sherrod may have been fired for the very reason that Ralph Paige, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, gave to jusify her reinstatement, namely, she was "one of the most active practitioners in assisting untold numbers of black and white farmers to access the credit, conservation and other programs at USDA." Perhaps the current leadership of the USDA, doesn't want the contrast of Shirley Sherrod's successes, and the operation of their other divisions.
Tom Vilsack's behavior suggest that he was not involved in Cheryl Cook's decision to fire Shirley Sherrod, but after he learned of it, he covered it up. Otherwise, why would he give two different accounts, of how her resignation was obtained, on the same day. "Earlier today, Vilsack released a statement saying he had accepted Sherrod's resignation," but after Sherrod's characterization of events became known, and it was clear that the resignation had been demanded by Cook, he changed his position, "this afternoon, Vilsack released another statement saying he asked for Sherrod's resignation."
A resignation obtained by fraud is not legally binding! The White House should announce that Shirley Sherrod's resignation is non-binding, and that her employment remains unchanged. The White House should also call for the resignations of Tom Vilsack and Cheryl Cook.
This is an excellent opportunity for the White House to highlight how the misuse of media can influence social events, including manipulating racial attitudes, that make us vulnerable to misrepresentations and deceptions.
Irresponsible reporting created an atmosphere in which it seemed conceivable that the White House would directly call for the termination of a low-level employee, based on an unflattering report on that employee. It also paved the way for a fraudulent misuse of the authority of the White House. Finally, irresponsible reporting by Glenn Beck, leading to the resignation of Van Jones, White House environmental adviser, was precedent for the idea that Glenn Beck would do the same thing to Shirley Sherrod.
Finally, this would be a good time to develop a White House Media Exploration Committee, to devise ways of recognizing insensitive and misleading reporting.