Charged Atmosphere Surrounds Sherrod Accusation

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Donna Brazile, democratic political strategist

Shirley Sherrod, the former head of the Department of Agriculture's rural development office in Georgia, was forced to resign after an edited video clip posted online accused her of admitting racism at an NAACP event. The release of a longer clip of the speech was released has prompted a second look at the incident.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

A runoff and a rerun in Georgia, Blago clams up, and Ben Jealous and Sarah Palin's war of words, including some brand new ones. It's Wednesday and time for a...

Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Refudiate.

CONAN: ...edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Where's the beef?

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Ms. PALIN: Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk about the week in politics. As usual, there's a lot to talk about. Newt's candidate and Palin's pick will face off in the GOP nomination for governor of Georgia. Former Governor Roy Barnes awaits the winner. Mr. Goodwin comes to Washington and breaks the unemployment extension filibuster. And Lindsey Graham gives Elena Kagan one Republican vote as she heads towards confirmation on the Senate floor.

In a bit, Donna Brazile will join us to focus on the case of Shirley Sherrod and the current state of the politics of race. We'll also go to Chicago, where Rod Blagojevich declines his day in court. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin, he joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. And Ken?

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, you just mentioned Roy Barnes. He won the Democratic nomination for governor. Eight years ago, he was defeated in his bid for re-election. So what I'm looking for, he by the way, he and Bob Ehrlich of Maryland both were elected governor and then defeated, and they would look to return to their job.

Who was the last governor who was elected, defeated and returned to that office?

CONAN: If you know the last governor to be elected, then defeated and then return to his statehouse, or her statehouse, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also get a fabulous no-prize T-shirt if you get the correct answer.

But Ken, I have to start by asking: How did William Shakespeare get involved in the argument between the Tea Party and the NAACP?

RUDIN: Well, this started out basically an interview on the Hannity show on Fox News with Sarah Palin, who only talks on Facebook or Fox News, and she was talking...

CONAN: She tweets.

RUDIN: She tweets, but she doesn't talk to the lamestream media, nor is there any reason to because she would probably, she doesn't want to lose the loyaltality of her base. Sorry.

So anyway, so she's talking about the brouhaha between the NAACP and the Tea Party. The NAACP passed a resolution denouncing, condemning racist elements in the Tea Party, and of course, conservatives said this is unfair and not true and blah, blah, blah. And she said on the Hannity show that the White House should refudiate the NAACP on this because Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have sway with the NAACP.

And then later, of course, nobody made a comment about the refudiate except for the liberal bloggers out there.

CONAN: Of course, yeah.

RUDIN: Well, look. I mean, you know, look. We did the same thing when Joe Biden makes a misstep and says crazy things. We just point it out. I mean, it's not because we're liberal or conservative. It's just nutty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Joe Biden, by the way, went on "Meet the Press" this week to say he doesn't think the Tea Party as a movement is racist, yes, some nutty elements within it.

RUDIN: Right, no, but I'm talking about malapropisms and things like that. And then the next day, or a day or two later, Sarah Palin on her Twitter page said something again, once again, about refudiate. So everybody went crazy.

But what didn't happen is that the she, on July 12th, she endorsed Karen Handel, she's a former secretary of state...

CONAN: Just before we get to that, she also went back and said William Shakespeare invented new words, too.

RUDIN: She said a lot of people were making a big deal of it, and, you know, between misunderestimate or whatever...

CONAN: That was a Bushism.

RUDIN: That's a Bushism, and things like that. And of course, Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live" talked about strategery, making fun of President Bush. So a lot of things have been said - or apocryphal.

CONAN: But, well, some mock Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin, as you suggest, is showing real political power.

RUDIN: Yes, but before we go there, so anyway, so she also went on her tweet, Twitter page and said, she said look, you know, William Shakespeare makes up words all the time, and of course, a lot of people are now comparing Sarah Palin to William Shakespeare, justifiably so.

Anyway, but also the upside of Sarah Palin is that she is a potent force in the Republican Party. There's no question about it. On July 12th, she endorsed Karen Handel, who is the former secretary of state of Georgia.

She was one among one of four or five Republicans running for governor of Georgia in yesterday's - it turned out to be yesterday's Republican primary, and Handel, who was not considered a frontrunner at all, she led the pack pretty convincingly. And of course, she runs, goes into an August 10th runoff.

But again, Sarah Palin, as she did with Nikki Haley in South Carolina and other states as well, she endorses a candidate, and suddenly they come to life, and they just, you know, it makes a big difference.

And she didn't even campaign for Karen Handel. She announced it on her Facebook page, and yet it was enough to put Handel over the top. Now, finishing in second place was former Congressman Nathan Deal, who, the day after Palin endorsed Handel, Nathan Deal was endorsed by Newt Gingrich. So everybody is trying to make this as a proxy for 2012.

And just for the record, the Democratic primary was won, as we said earlier, by Roy Barnes. He defeated the state attorney general Thurbert Baker, who was endorsed by Bill Clinton. Now, Bill Clinton had a pretty good record for endorsing candidates. He did it in Arkansas with Blanche Lincoln. But Baker lost to Roy Barnes 66 to 22 percent.

CONAN: Ouch.

RUDIN: In yesterday's Democratic primary. So much for the Clinton magic, at least in that race.

CONAN: All right. There's other political news in the week, and let's see, West Virginia has a new senator, and well, we all remember when Mr. Smith went to Washington to stage that incredible filibuster about the Boy Scout camp and everything like that. Well, he comes in and breaks the filibuster.

RUDIN: That's exactly what happened. The Democrats were one vote short of extending unemployment benefits insurance. They had basically, they had 59 Democrats, including the two independents. When they lost Robert Byrd, it was 58. Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against it. That's 57. Then they got two Republicans from Maine, Snowe and Collins, to give them 59, but they were still one vote short of breaking the filibuster.

Carte Goodwin, who was a former legal counsel for Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia, was appointed last Friday to fill Robert Byrd's Senate seat. Robert Byrd was the oldest senator. Carte Goodwin is now the youngest senator at 36. He cast the 60th vote, the deciding vote, to break the GOP filibuster.

CONAN: And he will be one of the shortest-serving senators because he vows to step aside immediately after the November election for whoever wins the race in West Virginia.

RUDIN: And there's some news on that, too. First of all, just a few days ago, the West Virginia state legislature agreed to have a special election this year. Joe Manchin, the very popular governor, announced that he will run. The big news of today is Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican congresswoman, announced she would not run for the Senate race, and so the Republicans are now scrambling. The filing deadline is Friday. They may not have a top-notch candidate to run against Joe Manchin.

And one Democrat did announce also today, Ken Hechler, who is 95 years old, even older than Robert Byrd, the late Robert Byrd of course, former secretary of state, former congressman. Ken Hechler announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination - not going to win, but he's running on an environmental program.

CONAN: Let's see, we've got some callers on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question was the last governor of a state to be elected then defeated and then re-elected, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Dave(ph) is on the line from Charleston, South Carolina.

DAVE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Dave, go ahead.

DAVE: Thanks. Bill Clinton.

CONAN: Bill Clinton.

RUDIN: Well, Bill Clinton, you do make a valid point that Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978, defeated in 1980 and then re-elected in 1982, but Bill Clinton was not the last to do it.

CONAN: Not the most recent. So Dave, nice try. Thank you.

DAVE: Great, thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to this is Kirk(ph), Kirk with us from Columbia, South Carolina.

KIRK (Caller): Good afternoon.

CONAN: Hi.

KIRK: I was going to say Teddy Roosevelt, but I think Clinton's more recent than that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I think Clinton's a little bit more recent than that, but he would have charged up San Juan Hill, too, if he'd had the chance.

RUDIN: But now it would be San Juan Hillary.

(Soundbite of groaning)

RUDIN: Oh, sorry.

CONAN: Anyway, let's thank you, Kirk. Let's see if we can go let's go to Robert(ph), Robert with us from Winston-Salem.

ROBERT (Caller): Yeah, I had Clinton, also. So I'm out of it.

CONAN: Oh, well, too bad. Thank you for calling, Robert.

ROBERT: Bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Mitchell(ph), Mitchell with us from Durham, North Carolina.

MITCHELL (Caller): Well, I was going to go with Lester Maddox, but surely that's after - before Clinton, as well.

RUDIN: But also, Lester Maddox was never defeated for governor. In other words, he ran for governor. Then he couldn't run for re-election. He was succeeded by a guy named Jimmy Carter. Back then, you couldn't succeed himself. So he was never defeated for re-election. I'm looking for somebody who was elected, defeated for re-election and then elected again.

MITCHELL: Thanks.

CONAN: We'll come down and chase you with an axe handle there, Mitchell. Thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we go next to Joe(ph), and Joe is with us from Portland, Oregon.

JOE (Caller): Yes, I believe the answer is Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana.

RUDIN: And that is correct.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Edwin Edwards, who was elected in 1983, remember he said he couldn't be defeated unless he was found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

CONAN: And he apparently was.

RUDIN: Well, he was elected in '83, defeated in the primary in '87, came back and was re-elected in 1991.

CONAN: And by the way, we have a correct email on that, too, from Mitchell(ph). So we're going to have to give away two fabulous no-prize T-shirts this week in exchange for a promise to take a digital picture of yourself and email it to us so we can post it on our Wall of Shame.

RUDIN: Just for the record, other governors who won, lost and won against were Michael Dukakis, Bill Clements in Texas, Kit Bond in Missouri. But again, Edwin Edwards was the most recent.

CONAN: The most recent. Joe, we're going to put you on hold and collect your particulars.

JOE: Oh great, thanks.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's that's the hold button, okay.

RUDIN: I love buttons.

CONAN: I love buttons, too. Let's go on, and news this week that, well, as expected, Elena Kagan emerged successfully from the Senate Judiciary Committee but with one unexpected vote, and that was the vote of the Republican from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, who explained his calculation this way.

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): I'm going to vote for her, and that doesn't mean I'm pro-choice. I'm very pro-life. I'm going to vote for her because I believe the last election had consequences, and this president chose someone who was qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court, who's in the mainstream of liberal philosophy and understands the difference between being a liberal judge and a politician.

CONAN: So the one Republican vote on the Judiciary Committee. Ken, can she expect more Republican votes when it goes down to the Senate floor?

RUDIN: Well, maybe, maybe not. So far, Lindsey Graham is the first Republican to say he's going to vote for her. He was also the only Republican last year on the Judiciary Committee to vote for Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice.

Now, while he says, and he's right, that elections have consequences, perhaps votes have consequences, too. We heard from Bob Inglis, I guess it was last week or the week before that.

CONAN: Last week.

RUDIN: Was it only last week?

CONAN: It was only last week.

RUDIN: How Republicans in South Carolina do not forget something. By the way, Nikki Haley in the past has also called for a censuring of Lindsey Graham. He's not up until 2014. But there is conservative resentment being built against Graham, and that could be consequential.

CONAN: All right. Stay with us. Coming up, all about ex-USDA official Shirley Sherrod, who was pressured to quit her job after she was accused of making racist comments. We'll get Donna Brazile's take on what this says about the politics of race right now. That's all coming up with the Political Junkie. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as usual on Wednesdays, and if you can't get enough, you can read his blog at npr.org, download the It's All Politics podcast and solve the ScuttleButton puzzle.

Over the past couple of weeks, the politics of race devolved into name-calling, selective deafness, deliberate distortion, all culminating yesterday in what now looks to be a case of premature political panic.

It started with a resolution passed by the NAACP, which called on leaders of the Tea Party movement to repudiate the racist elements within that movement. Through the filter of the news media, some in the Tea Party heard that as a blanket accusation and turned around and accused the NAACP of race-baiting.

The controversy then escalated when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a video of a USDA official named Shirley Sherrod making a speech to an NAACP meeting last March, and making what sounded like a racist comment about refusing to provide a white farmer with all the help she might have.

She was quickly asked to resign. She says her boss told her the video would be all over Glenn Beck that night. But then it emerged the remark was taken way out of context, that she was speaking about how much she had learned from that incident 24 years ago, that the white farmer in question credits her for saving his farm, and now almost everybody is trying to find a way to backtrack.

We want to hear from you. What does this tell us about the state of politics of race right now? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Donna Brazile is a Democratic political strategist, the founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates, LLC, and joins us now on the line from her office here in Washington. And nice to have you back on the program.

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Political Strategist): Thank you, Ken. It's good to hear your voice.

CONAN: That's Neal, actually. Ken's also with us. But that's all right.

Ms. BRAZILE: Oh, Neal, oh great.

CONAN: But does this not seem in a way, in a way another proxy strike in a war between those who suspect President Obama of racism and those who suspect the Tea Party of harboring pools of racism, as well?

Ms. BRAZILE: First of all, I believe this situation was handled poorly by all sides, from the conservative blogger who decided that this was a hot get and put it on the air without getting the full story, to the administration, NAACP and others who overreacted, to other commentators who flamed it, again without getting the full text of her remarks, the context.

When I heard about the story, the first thing I did was to request a copy of the speech. The reason why is that in looking at the video I give a lot of speeches and especially to audiences similar to the crowd that Mrs. Sherrod appeared before. And I know that you try to tell a story. Normally, it's a story of redemption, a revelation about your own history and past and growing up in the segregated Deep South. So I had enough information for me to want to find out the context and the entire story.

Yesterday, I was able to get a full copy of the speech. I listened to it, and then I went on air at CNN and said that, you know, all sides need to back down, review the entire tape and perhaps listen to Ms. Sherrod. And of course, at the time I went on the air, the Spooners had also gone public.

CONAN: That's the family, the white farmer family.

Ms. BRAZILE: Yeah. That's an incredible story. It's an incredible story, and, you know, she may not be the perfect speechwriter I'm referring to Ms. Sherrod - but she has an incredible story of growing up in the South, making the decision not to go north after a very, you know, terrible accident, terrible incident happened to her father and rather to stay home to try to help those down South to come up with this way of coming up with this way of talking about how she had to overcome her own, you know, concerns, her own fears, her own, you know, deep-seated worry about racism down South.

And later, you know, she told the story of the first time she was confronted with a white farmer. Look, it's an incredible story. It's part of our American mosaic, and we shouldn't constantly react to issues of race or racism with recrimination. We need to listen. We need to understand. We need to respect each other.

We need to believe that our motives are not you know, our motives are good when we try to explain this and try to have a conversation about race and racism in American life.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Well, Donna, several things. I mean, first of all, the video was a deliberate distortion. It wasn't even just, you know, clumsy editing. It was a deliberate distortion.

But I'm very interested in the role of the NAACP, who usually I mean, they reacted immediately, saying this is unacceptable, and it's good that she's gone, and they didn't even consider what you considered: looking for the full context of her remarks.

CONAN: Or calling their own chapter and saying: What did she say?

Ms. BRAZILE: Well, I think in the moment, as they say, we live in a cycle of news that happens so rapidly. And I think, you know, coming off the conference where they issue a resolution calling upon the national Tea Party movement to denounce and to repudiate those members or those chapters that are deliberately inflaming racial tensions, I think coming off of the things that we've seen in the last week, they overreacted.

They didn't take time they didn't take time. Fox didn't take time. The conservative no one took time to say wait a minute, this is wrong.

Now, I have to tell you full disclosure. It was the NAACP who found the tape, got the tape, had it uploaded and then sent to their headquarters, where I was able to listen and of course see the tape in its entirety.

But that was because I insisted. I wanted to know before I publicly commented. I wanted to know. I just saw the tape, and I said no, that's not right.

You could tell. We all know how the story we call it sometimes, those of us who are from the South, it's revelation. We all have these stories because we grew up in an era where our parents, our grandparents, we were personally impacted by racial discrimination.

And so you have to tell a story because it's a lesson that your parents drill in you when you're a kid. You can't hate. You cannot retaliate. You have to learn how to reconcile and to forgive and then make this a moment of redemption.

That's what I know, and then when I heard about the organization, the Federal of Southern Cooperatives, again I know that organization, and I know its history.

So I just spent some time researching, looking into it, and I went on air to urge everyone to take look, just back up. Back up, listen and then comment.

And I also called on the secretary of Agriculture to review the situation so that Mrs. Sherrod would have a full opportunity to tell her story. I mean, the way that she described being pulled over on the highway and told to resign, I mean, that was just that was incompetent. That was very irresponsible, whoever made that phone call.

CONAN: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you. Apparently, her boss made the phone call, and she says it was on behalf of the White House. Tom Vilsack, the secretary of Agriculture, said no, it was his decision, and he is apparently reviewing it now. But do you think this was made at the White House?

Ms. BRAZILE: Look, I don't know if it was I don't have the answer. I don't know if it was who made the call and how it was made. The bottom line is it was poorly handled, and I think that the if the White House was involved or if it was just the secretary's office, they acted irresponsibly.

Look, when matters like this arise, when you hear that there's been, you know, an unarmed person shot by a cop, the first thing you think of, well, that person should be taken off the job and put on administrative leave. Well, I think in situations like this, you want to, you know, say hey, we need you to get into the office right away. We need to find out what happened, that you should put someone under administrative review.

But to tell them to (unintelligible) because of Glenn Beck or whoever, that's just again, we're in this 24-7, crazy news cycle, and everybody was overreacting.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And Rich(ph) is with us calling from Rochester, New York.

RICH (Caller): Hello, how are you doing today?

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

RICH: Hi, Donna. I'm a great admirer of yours.

Ms. BRAZILE: (unintelligible) Rich.

RICH: There's several points that I want to make about this thing. I think from the beginning, as Obama has been running, as much as we want to talk about post-racial America, I think this all is pointing out how pre-racial or in-racist America we are.

We're still dealing with these issues. I think I think the right side, the right has taken on that term of a good defense is a good offense. So everything that - they have been calling Obama racist, racist, racist, and I think they do that because there's as you know, there's that angry black man syndrome that Obama has to live with and has to deal with as much as it's kept quiet.

And now it's gotten to the point where everybody is worried about looking racist. So we have to jump on everything that is racist and, you know, admonish them. So that's what the NAACP did.

I think we are living in a period of hysteria, and it's absolutely nuts, and it's out of control.

CONAN: When you say the right, Rich, do you think that's too broad a brush? Certainly a few on the right, but...

RICH: Because from the beginning of his from the beginning of his campaign, the right has grabbed anything and everything to call Obama a racist. There's nothing in his writings. There's nothing in any speech that I could see that has said that. But, you know, if you look at Glenn Beck and you look at a lot of the voices...

CONAN: There's a lot more to the right than Glenn Beck.

Ms. BRAZILE: Yes. And the things, Rich...

RICH: Yeah, that's true.

Ms. BRAZILE: ...that I don't like to do and I try not to do, I try to avoid it, because I know sometimes people go on TV and they say all liberals.

RICH: That's (unintelligible)...

Ms. BRAZILE: And I say that's not true. Not all liberals are the same and not all conservatives are the same. Look, I understand what you're trying to say. Since the election, this historic election, that it was a moment of jubilation. We all celebrated - at least many of us celebrated. I think the country did celebrate this wonderful new chapter that we were about to engage in.

There are some policy differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. There are policy differences between liberal Democrats and moderate Democrats. There are policy differences across the board. But I think that what you're trying to say is that since this election, there has been some people who have tried to, once again, divide us along these racial lines. This is not unique. It's been - racism and racial conflict has been part of our history since the beginning.

The one thing we have to learn how to do, is not rush to appear that we will simply not tolerate racism from any quarter and then leap and vilify people. We got to make sure that in this new era, whether we call it post-racial or some other term, but I think - I don't believe it's post-racial, but we are in a new era.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BRAZILE: We need to find ways that, as Americans, we come together; that we can have these conversations without us demonizing each other, and we can talk about our differences; because I think it's important for our country and for our democracy, that we not tolerate racism in any way or fashion, but we can talk about our differences.

RICH: Well, I do agree with you. I am wrong by saying the right. But I just -this level of hysteria, we have to - like you said, Donna, we have to back down. We have to - and we have to do something about it. And how do we - why won't they repudiate these...

CONAN: Well, there was an incident where the...

RICH: ...the very vicious act that he did? It's very...

CONAN: Excuse me. Excuse me.

RICH: ...calculated and vicious.

CONAN: Rich, there was an incident after the exchange with the Tea Party and the NAACP, where one of the leaders of the Tea Party Express wrote a blatantly offensive post. And he has been repudiated, been excluded from the Tea Party.

RICH: Yeah. But - and I think this - who - this guy who edited this video - I mean, he has to be - he's got to be repudiated. You got to remove them. Remove these type of people in - on both sides.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Yeah. Rich, I was going to say, it was two things. First of all, we don't know who edited this video. Andrew Breitbart said that he showed it as he received it. So, I mean, that could be a truth or - it could be a lie. But we don't even know who he did it.

But Donna, I want to point the one thing that Rich said. I mean, again, you hear this thing over and over again, about a post-racial America, and we've heard this in January 28, 2009. That must drive you crazy, because there's more talk about race now in this post-racial era than we've ever had before, it seems.

Ms. BRAZILE: Well, I - when I first heard it, I said that when Dr. King saw this moment in his "I Have a Dream" speech, he laid out the vision and said this is how we would get to the promised land. But we have to first understand that before we can go into a new era, we have to believe that we've arrived at a mountaintop moment. The reason why we cannot go post-racial is because we still have a hard time talking about race. We're uncomfortable. We don't have a new language. We're using the old vocabulary from the Reconstruction Era and the '60s. We don't know how to raise issues of race without making someone feel defensive or feeling that they have to hit back.

What I love best about this story - and I have many ways of looking at this story, now that I've gotten out the moment of it myself - is I love the fact that (unintelligible) to sit there as quietly as possible and say, that woman helped us, she volunteered to drive with us, yes, we wanted her - there was a family involved.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BRAZILE: There were people involved. And look at the healing that came as a result of her finding that she - she had peace. She did it. She overcame what was inside of her. There's a moment here that we should look at and say, look, what happened. How dare - they killed. And look what she was confronted with. And she could have said, I'm never going to step up and help, because I'm mad. But she's - rather she decided that she could help him, and she followed through. And that is the moral of the story. There's a redemption. This is about redemption.

CONAN: Donna...

Ms. BRAZILE: And I just hope that people don't lose this story. Mrs. Sherrod is not much different than any of us on this phone. We grew up with racial prejudice. We've seen it from both whites and blacks. And we know when we see it. And we feel it in our hearts. And when we urge to succumb, sometime, to the deep-seated history of our own experiences, but we have to move beyond that and not react. We have to resist this. But we can only resist if we face it head on, knowing that we can do better now and we must do better in the future.

CONAN: Donna Brazile on the Political Junkie. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Eric's(ph) on the line - one last caller - Erick with us from St. Louis.

ERIC (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

ERIC: As moving as Donna Brazile just described Ms. Sherrod's story and redemption, I think the controversy has virtually nothing to do with race, and everything to do with politics and media culpability. I mean, one of the reasons that people acted so quickly and recklessly was that they knew there's a media outlet that doesn't care to check, to get the full story.

They knew that Breitbart is a known distortionist, and they took that material and they put it on the air. And they were prepared to use it as best they could. And the White House knew that they would use it as best they could. And that precipitated this crazy action coming down on Ms. Sherrod. I think it's really a story of media standards having disappeared, in particular, in this (unintelligible)...

CONAN: And...

ERIC: ...the facts.

CONAN: ...apparently stampeded the decision to ask for her dismissal. And, Donna, you were right to check. But you're right, when the - we just have a few seconds left - but when the news cycle is so fast and so furious, clearly some in the administration want to get out ahead of the story, if they could.

Ms. BRAZILE: It's - and that's the saddest part, because let me tell you, as a political commentator on both CNN and ABC, I have an opportunity to jump right in the middle of that cycle. But when the - when it's race, when the conversation is race, I tell people, I know these currents. I know how deep this water is. I try not to jump in. I wait. I try to figure it all out. I don't jump when someone say the Tea Party is racist. I don't jump when they say the NAACP is inflaming race. I don't jump. I know it. I've been it, I've seen it, I've experienced it and I tell everybody what we must not do is, tear to shreds, those who speak of (unintelligible)...

CONAN: But I'm afraid what we must do is go to a break, so I apologize for that. Donna Brazile, thanks very much for being with us today.

Ms. BRAZILE: Thank you.

CONAN: Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist, founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates.

Stay with us. The Blago trial coming up. This is NPR News.

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