COOPER: There's also a new aspect to the Shirley Sherrod story that's bubbling up online. Questions about her and her husband, Charles, a civil rights activist, keep bubbling up on some conservative blogs. The questions center around why and how Shirley Sherrod got appointed to her old job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the first place, and whether her appointment was somehow connected to a settlement she received from the government in a race discrimination lawsuit.
Joe Johns joins me now live from Washington. He's been following the controversy online. Joe, what about it? What is it?
JOE JOHNS: Well, Anderson, the facts are that in the '60s and '70s, the Sherrods and a number of other African-Americans operated a farming cooperative. Times were tough. Many white farmers got loans to survive, but the cooperative didn't. It was foreclosed. The Sherrods joined other African-American farmers in a class-action discrimination lawsuit against the government, and just last year, the Sherrods each got about $150,000 a piece.
CHARLES SHERROD (from 2010 speech at University of Virginia): We farmed for 17 years. We held on to it for that number of years. And then we had five straight years of drought. Then we had a three-year fight with USDA just to get the right to get loans for drought, when, all around us, plantations- all kinds of plantations that we proved were getting loans.
JOHNS: And now, here's what the blogs are raising suspicions about. Shortly after that payment, Shirley Sherrod got the job as USDA's director of rural development in Georgia. Republican congressman, Steve King, talks about why he thinks there ought to be an investigation.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING: Why would you hire the person who had sued you and received the highest settlement, to then go to work for you? That seems odd to me, more than odd, and I think we should take a look at it.
JOHNS: So, CNN's Don Lemon asked Shirley Sherrod about that today, and here's part of his interview.
DON LEMON: Because of the timing of your appointment and that, people wonder if the two are connected-
SHIRLEY SHERROD: No.
LEMON: And it's because of that that you were appointed.
S. SHERROD: No. One didn't know about the other. At the time, they were considering me for the position long before we got the news about the lawsuit, and I actually said to my congressman- you know, this is out there. I didn't want it to reflect badly on anyone. He said, 'Well, I think you should disassociate yourself from the organization.' Okay. I'm willing to do that.
JOHNS: Now, Anderson, we've done some checking, and many members of the Democratic congressional delegation apparently did know her and did recommend her for this job.
COOPER: So, when she says the organization, she's talking about that farming cooperative. There's another layer to all this- a speech that her husband, Charles Sherrod, made earlier this year at the University of Virginia Law School conference on the issue of race in the law. That's been put online, and it's made a lot of people annoyed. What's the story about that?
JOHNS: You're right. Well, the speech- it was rambling, I think you can say. He sums up sort of the history of blacks in America from slavery to the present, even talks about the future and here is what the blogs are picking up on.
C. SHERROD (from 2010 speech at University of Virginia): When will we trust our own? When will we feel responsible to save ourselves? Finally, we must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black. We must not be afraid to turn a black out who votes against our interests.
COOPER: So, is this taken out of context, the way Shirley Sherrod's comments were taken out of context?
JOHNS: It doesn't appear to be. Apparently, he said he said what he meant, meant what he said. We did ask Charles Sherrod for a statement about this today. He refused to comment. People we've talked to, who know him, point out Charles Sherrod is a well-known, even famous civil rights activist, contemporary of Martin Luther King and John Lewis. He's been using that kind of language since the early days of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, where he was one of the early leaders, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Joe Johns, appreciate it. Thanks for the follow-up.