On Tuesday evening, the NAACP posted a more complete video of Sherrod's remarks, and the longer version supports her story. The fuller video shows her telling the story about how the white lawyer to whom she introduced Spooner did little to help him, with Spooner calling her to tell her "the lawyer wasn't doing anything."
So Sherrod helped him. "Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't," she said. "You know, and that they could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don't have access the way others have." "
The shorter clip of Sherrod speaking at the NAACP banquet aired in the context of various racially-charged debates in the last year.
For decades, black farmers have said the USDA unfairly denied them loans or took much longer to process their loans. Earlier this year, the Obama administration agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the agency.
Vilsack today acknowledged the challenge of dealing with the multitude of lawsuits that have been brought against the USDA, saying that "trying to turn the page on our civil rights chapter... has been difficult."
Sherrod's story, she said, was to argue that race shouldn't matter.
"Up to that point, I felt they had all the advantages," Sherrod told ABC News Tuesday. "Until I started working with that farmer, I didn't think white farmers were treated like black farmers were treated by the agency... There are a few of them who get treated like black farmers. And they turned into saying that I'm a racist."
The farmer who Sherrod assisted, and his wife, have come out in support of Sherrod, saying she did not discriminate on the basis of race.
"It never, never crossed my mind," Roger Spooner told ABC News. "Never crossed my mind. Me and the wife, we never, we never, we never saw that at all. Absolutely. It's unbelievable."
Spooner said that without Sherrod, he would have lost the farm.
"If we had not found her, me and my wife -- we went checking here and yonder and everywhere -- if it hadn't been for her, we'd have lost. It was just a matter of a few months and we would have lost it."
The NAACP initially sided with Vilsack's argument but then flipped on the issue, saying in a statement late Tuesday that it was "snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias."
"Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans," NAACP president Ben Jealous said in a statement. "The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm."
Racial sensitivities within the USDA are high, with lawsuits from black farmers, Hispanic farmers, and other groups alleging billions of dollars in unfairly denied USDA loans, rooted in racial discrimination.
Vilsack was originally scheduled to attend the National Rural Education Technology Summit today at the National Museum of the American Indian, but at the last minute his name was removed from the official attendees' list. Following his news conference, he met with members of the House Black Caucus.