It wasn't exactly a media-friendly question. CNN co-anchor Kiran Chetry asked Shirley Sherrod on Thursday's "American Morning" if she wanted another news outlet to be shut down entirely – Andrew Breitbart's website, to be exact. "Would you like [Breitbart's] site to be shut down?" Chetry asked Sherrod. Sherrod answered yes, "that would be a great thing."
In lieu of Sherrod's recent travails, CNN co-anchors Chetry and John Roberts brought the embattled former USDA official on-air for an interview. They briefed the audience on Sherrod's rocky background in the race-embittered South, which included having a cross burned in her family's yard and her father being murdered by a white man who was never indicted for the crime.
Then the anchors turned to Breitbart's publication of the edited video showing Sherrod delivering her remarks to NAACP members. Chetry asked Sherrod if she would consider a defamation suit against Breitbart, to which she said she would. Sherrod said later that she would like to help President Obama understand better what some African-Americans have gone through in terms of racially-motivated abuse.
Then the dialogue morphed from that of a sympathetic interview into a full-fledged shower of praise for Sherrod. Roberts hinted that the interviewee could do better in the White House rather than within the USDA. "Well maybe they need you inside the White House, as opposed to inside the Department of Agriculture," John Roberts told her, in response to her musings on Obama and race.
"You're in a very powerful position now," Roberts added. "You've got the attention of the nation. When someone's got the attention of the nation, particularly a person like you, you can do great things. And I know you've been doing great things up until now, but go on from here."
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on July 22, at 6:42 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
KIRAN CHETRY: Would you consider a defamation suit against Andrew Breitbart?
SHIRLEY SHERROD: I really think I should. You know, I don't know a lot about the legal profession, but that's one person I'd like to get back at.
JOHN ROBERTS: Really?
SHERROD: Because he came at me. You know, he didn't go after the NAACP. He came at me, you know?
ROBERTS: So, in getting back at him, what would you be looking to exact from him?
SHERROD: I don't know what I can get from him – an apology, at this point. And he hasn't made that. It's just not enough for me.
ROBERTS: Not enough for you?
SHERROD: No. He didn't -- he didn't apologize.
CHETRY: Would you like his site to be shut down?
SHERROD: That would be a great thing. Because I don't see how that advances us in this country. I don't see how that helps us, at a time when we have many, many minority groups in this -- many, many ethnic groups I guess is what I mean to say -- in this country, at a time when we should be trying to look at how we can make space for all of us in this country, so that we can all live and work together. He's doing more to divide us.
ROBERTS: And what about President Obama? You supported him. You're a political appointee. And then this happens.
I mean, I wonder what your thoughts are about the way he reacted to this, and about the way that his administration is dealing with these tough issues regarding race.
SHERROD: Yes. I really regret what they did. But as I've said before, he's my president. I support him fully. I'd like to help him to see some of the things he should do in the future, you know, that could be more helpful than what's happening right now, to advance the issues of togetherness in this country.
He hasn't lived the kind of life I've lived. I know that he's African-American, or part African-American, but -- and many of us are not totally black in our genes. I'm one of them. But he's really -- you know, when you get down to where the rubber meets the road, I think you need to understand a little bit more of what life is like at that level.
ROBERTS: Well, maybe they need you inside the White House, as opposed to inside the Department of Agriculture.
SHERROD: No, you know. I'd love to talk to him, though, or people in his administration, to have them understand, like I felt I could do –
ROBERTS: You're in a very powerful position now.
SHERROD: Is that right?
ROBERTS: You've got the attention of the nation. And when someone's got the attention of the nation, particularly a person like you, you can do great things.
SHERROD: Thank you.
ROBERTS: And I know you've been doing great things up until now, but go on from here. Shirley, great to talk to you.
SHERROD: Thank you.