Viral Politics: Shirley Sherrod Video Flap Highlights Political Trend

Shirley Sherrod episode highlights nasty video wars between political enemies.

July 21, 2010, 8:10 AM

July 21, 2010— -- The controversy over comments about race made by ousted USDA official Shirley Sherrod has ignited a political debate over using viral videos to "race-bait."

The conservative publisher of the Web site that posted the clip of Sherrod at a recent NAACP conference saying she had not given a white farmer as much help as she could have more than two decades ago stood by his decision today, even after it was revealed that the comments may have been taken out of context.

"The video shows racism and when the NAACP is going to charge the Tea Party with racism ... I'm going to show you it happens on the other side," Andrew Breitbart, publisher of, told "Good Morning America" today.

He contended that this only goal in publishing the clip was to turn the tables on the NAACP, which made headlines this month when they exposed racism within the ranks of the Tea Party.

"This is not about Shirley Sherrod. This is about the smears that have gone against the Tea Party," he said.

"What this video clearly shows is a standard that the Tea Party has not been held to, " he said. "The NAACP, it shows the audience there applauding her when she discriminates against a white farmer."

But Eric Boehlert, senior fellow with the watchdog group Media Matters for America, scoffed at the suggestion that Breitbart was trying to present a fair portrayal of the NAACP conference.

"Andrew had no idea what the context of the comments were, but that didn't stop him from launching the smear campaign," he said.

Sherrod was quickly ousted from the USDA after a portion of the video, taped at a March conference, was released on Breitbart's site. Her comments were quickly condemned on both sides of the aisle.

But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that he would be reconsidering his department's actions after the NAACP posted the full video of her speech, revealing that the seemingly offensive comments were part of a larger point about learning from her mistakes.

"If he had any decency he would apologize to Shirley Sherrod," Boehlert said. "And would stop with the race-baiting that we've seen all summer."

Sherrod told "GMA" today that she might not want her job back if it's offered.

"Because of all the publicity surrounding what happened…how would I be treated once I'm back there? I just don't know," she said on "GMA." "I would have to be reassured on that."

Racially-Charged Political Debate Hasn't Slowed During Obama Presidency

There have been several recent controversies involving viral videos released by conservatives that appear to show racism against whites.

Conservatives are now accusing the Obama administration of failing to pursue voter harassment charges after Fox News repeatedly ran video of Black Panther Party activists haranguing people outside a polling location.

And conservatives jumped on a video of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor saying a "wise Latina" may have advantages over a white judge.

Conservative commentators say the mainstream media too often ignores these stories. Glen Beck has called President Obama a racist and Rush Limbaugh has called liberal policies a form of "reparations."

But there have also been plenty of controversies that paint conservatives as racists.

Former Republican Virginia Sen. George Allen was caught on tape at 2006 campaign event calling an Indian man a "macaca."

And more recently, there have been allegations that racial epithets were hurled at black members of Congress during the health care debate.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events