July 21st, 2010
08:10 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Tom Vilsack

The agriculture secretary said early Wednesday that he will review the case of a former Agriculture Department official who resigned after a video clip surfaced of her discussing a white farmer.

Shirley Sherrod - an African-American - resigned this week under pressure after the video clip first appeared on a conservative website and later on Fox News. In the video, she seemed to say she withheld services from a white farmer.

However, Sherrod later said the clip only shows part of her comments and that she tells the story of her experience - from nearly a quarter century ago when she was not a federal employee - to illustrate the importance of moving beyond race.

The video initially brought condemnation from the NAACP, which it later retracted after the context of the clip became clear.

Vilsack said Tuesday that the controversy, regardless of the context of her comments, "compromises the director's ability to do her job." He said, "She's a political appointee, and her job is basically to focus on job growth in Georgia, and I have deep concern about her ability to do her job without her judgments being second-guessed."

Before his appointment by President Obama, Vilsack was governor of Iowa for two terms, the first Democrat elected to that office in more than 30 years.

According to his official biography, Vilsack, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. He received a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in 1972 and earned his law degree from Albany Law School in 1975.

CNN: Agriculture secretary to review resignation of USDA official

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Vilsack biography 

Rep. Steve Cohen

The Democrat came from Memphis, Tennessee, to Washington three years ago ready to join the Congressional Black Caucus. That's because more than 60 percent of his constituents are black.

The Washington Post reports that while Cohen has the backing of a number of African-Americans in Congress in the upcoming election, caucus members must be black. Cohen is white.

For the third time in a row, Cohen is facing a black opponent in the August 5 primary - former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

"The whole idea of people voting by race, with Barack Obama's election, is going by the wayside," Cohen told the Post. "To some extent, this race will be a litmus test about where we are."

According to the newspaper, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia offered that Cohen might become an honorary member of the caucus. Cohen said he would still like to be an official member.

"It was something I would have been proud to have as an honor," he told the paper. "I like to break barriers."

According to Cohen's website, "As a child, he was stricken with polio, but through hard work, he was able to beat this debilitating disease."

The Washington Post: Black Caucus lines up for white Steve Cohen over black rival

Cohen's Congressional website

James Clapper

President Obama's nominee to be the new director of national intelligence said Tuesday he can succeed in the job without Congress legislating new authority.

Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, told his confirmation hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee that his role has the clout to oversee the nation's 16 intelligence agencies or programs.

In particular, Clapper said the director of national intelligence post he would assume has authority over the director of the CIA, which has been in question in recent years.

"I would not have agreed to take this position on if I was going to be a titular figurehead or hood ornament," Clapper said of the job created after the September 11, 2001, attacks as part of an intelligence expansion to strengthen and better coordinate activities.

There needs to be a "clear, defined, identifiable leader" of the intelligence community to "exert control over it," he said.

The director of national intelligence job has proven challenging, with four directors holding it since the position was created in 2004.

If confirmed, Clapper would succeed Dennis Blair, who resigned under pressure in May after breakdowns in intelligence coordination revealed by two failed terrorist bombing attempts of U.S. targets - an airliner over Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day and in New York City's Times Square on May 1.

Clapper, who retired from the Air Force in 1995 after a 32-year career, is also a recipient of the NAACP National Distinguished Service Award.

CNN: Nominee for intelligence chief says he'd have enough clout

'Starvin Marvin' Nash

The rodeo clown is rolling a 60-pound barrel on a 130-mile trek from Washington to the Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey. Nash told the website NJ.com that he plans to arrive Saturday, which is also the National Day of the Cowboy.

Nash, 55, said he's making the journey to prevent potential suicides induced by bullying.

"At home, we get phone calls every week from friends or relatives of children who've killed themselves because of bullying," said Nash's wife, Darlene. "And Marvin follows up on every single one of them."

According to the website, one day, Nash had had enough.

"He finally just threw up his hands and said, 'I can't take this anymore,' " said Darlene. "He said, 'We've gotta do something shocking, something that'll get people to notice what bullying can lead to.' "

Nash now promotes a Bullying Hurts program to school systems around the country.

NJ.com: Cowtown rodeo clown on phase II of barrel roll

Bullying Hurts Program website

Charlaine Harris

Millions of Americans love fangs, and the living proof is the unrelenting popularity of such franchises as "Twilight" and "True Blood."

The immensely successful, Emmy Award-winning HBO series chronicles what happens when ancient, yet sexy vampires mingle with the residents of fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana.

"True Blood" is based on Harris' Southern Vampire Mystery novels featuring the telepathic and fearless waitress, Sookie Stackhouse - herself a fang-lover.

It should then come as no surprise that Harris is a featured speaker Thursday at Comic-Con International, the annual festival of the supernatural and all things Spandex that's expecting some 126,000 ardent fans, beginning Wednesday in San Diego, California.

According to her website, Harris, a published novelist for more than 25 years, is a native of the Mississippi Delta who "grew up in the middle of a cotton field."

Now living in southern Arkansas with her husband and three dogs, Harris is the past senior warden of St. James Episcopal Church and a former board member of Mystery Writers of America.

Comic-Con website

Harris' website

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. BRUCE

    Anybody who knew Vilsack when he was the Governor of Iowa knows he doesn't tie his own shoes without marching orders. The decision to fire her came from above not from him. Also,this woman allegedly has sued and won big bucks from the government and not a peep from the media ( except for Fox) has been uttered. More information from the press should be written on that subject. Either deny or substantiate that claim. Afraid of something main stream media??? The tape is more than enough to have her fired. If that had been a white person in power that snippet would be all that was needed NO QUESTIONS ASKED TO HAVE THEM FIRED. The fact is that back tracking from doing so is nothing more than pandering to the left wing base who is up in arms that justice was done fairly. Blaming the person who released the tape is as low as I've seen Democrats go for a long time. Like maybe 5 minutes or so. Whose decision was it to fire her.. his? Right!! As with all episodes like this where a black person is accused of racism the main stream media charges to to defense. In a time and age where black people have more rights than whites tell me how allowing her to get her job back is going to help the black- white relationship, Especially after the NAACP recent actions against the tea party member for his comments. Of course the big argument will be that is different. Really?? Well no it's not but trying to convince the left wing radicals who want to keep blacks voting for the Democratic Party ain't gonna happen soon.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Ego

      You're an idiot. She is not (yet) guilty of any wrong doing and deserves due process.

      Why don't you stop being racist and realize every human deserves justice, not thoughtless condemnation regardless of their culture or skin color.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • democrat for life

      bruce, this was an anecdote ms sherodd was recounting. an incident that happened in 1985 or 1986 when she worked for a non profit in georgia that helped people keep their farms. if you would have seen the whole video and not the revised version that was posted by the person who has another agenda other then the truth. please tell me where and when ms sherrod sued the government for big bucks?? if fox is where you get your facts from you are being too trusting. they are neither fair or balanced. i am a democrat because they fit more to my beliefs then that other party who seems to be only out for themselves and big corporations. the democratic party is not perfect but i will take them any day and i think alot of other people who care about this country and its people rich and poor employed and out of work, healthy and sick old and young, white and black or brown and red will to!! what is our alternative, the republicans, no way, never!

      July 21, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • TexVet

      Her tone of voice was not anecdotal...she seemed to be relishing in retelling this story....as though she was very proud of how she treated this white person.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • flux

      Bruce, take a page (and a writing lesson) from Sherrod's own book. Learn from your mistakes and progress yourself. And if you ever get unfairly edited, we'll then see how you feel about everyone's rush to action against you.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. bama

    This entire thing is out of control. The only people that it should involve are the ones involved to get it cleared up. Then move on.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. Henry Miller

    The Congressional Black Caucus is a racist group, and an embarrassment to Congress.

    On the other hand, Congress is such a thorough embarrassment by every other measure that one pernicious absurdity more or less hardly makes a difference.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Shana

    To be a racist, one has to belive their race is superior to others and use it to their advantage – the so-called 'white privilidge' that most white Americans enjoy. Blacks cannot be racist. Bigots, yes. Biased, yes. Racist, no.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny A

      If blacks can't be racists, neither can whites.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Ego

      What if we'er not black or white? Both of y'all tend to forget the rest of us.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • IANative

      So, by your definition blacks can't be racist...unless they feel their race is superior and use it to their advantage.. Well you need to read all the articles on the post. Rep Steve Cohen, who is white and has a majority of black voters in his district wants to join the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). He wants to join to show good faith and support for the voters that put the man in office. The CBC said no because...drumroll please... he is white. SO, by your definition the CBC (which is an all black group) IS racist because they feel their race is superior and they are using it to their advantage and to Cohen's disadvantage.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      Great logic Shana! Where did you get your degree? The University of Jesse Jackson?

      I doesn't matter what color you are...you're just dumb!

      July 21, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. harrisonford

    I think she has been railroaded, sue everyone, their will be no way for you to get your good name back, I sorry for you and your family, Today news is terrible in so many ways. All news is about spin and lies, there is not truth left, only a one sided story, Journalism has long been gone, CNN and FOX are 2 of the worst problems in America, Reviewed and balance, was the foundation of a good reporter, it is now slanted toward and verging on hatred writing in the News. And your story and name was part of this cycle for a week, May your story not only be reviewed, but found your version of this story be true get a letter from the President for his part in this scandal, Newscasts and other will only give you lip service I so sorry to say, Fox News will be the least kind to, the trash they are. but I would sue all for telling lies if your story is as you say Mrs. Shirley Sherrod. The farmer and his family you helped and went the distance, good and great for the Farm Family for coming forward after their farm was saved and supporting and remembering you after the kindness and distance she went to save there farm, I hope in the end we may see justice in this case, News is not news nor it is the truth, it is someone hatred agenda anymore for political reasons, burn and scorched earth policy anymore in so called journalism.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Randy

    Give the nice lady her job back and fire the crud ball who doctored the video.....(I'm an old white guy)

    July 21, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. John Obrien

    FOX news strikes again, doctored tapes ,lies and the sheep shall follow.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mitch S

    The Sherrod Family did get funds, the result of a class action suit that compensated for past wrong-doings by the Dept. of Agriculture that were found to be racially biased. That fact should have no bearing on how she has been treated recently.This class-action suit was settled in 1999 – but the farmers are still have to receive any payments (http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/22/black.farmers.lawsuit/index.html)
    But, on to the subject at hand, if you see the rest of the video it clearly relates it as anecdotal and illustrates how important it is to treat everyone the same.
    The edited clip that was chosen to post was not representative of the situation. Why that clip alone was selected, I cannot say; I can however, theorize.
    I hereby call for the resignation of Mr. Vilsak, his rash actions without regard for the facts have compromised his ability to continue to serve without causing further harm to the USDA.

    July 21, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. flycatcher

    As an Iowan I have always questioned Vilsacks' ability to make logical decisions and I couldn't believe it when this useless excuse was appointed to Secretary of Agriculture. He is in the pocket of Monsanto, doesn't believe in sustainable agriculture and pushed genetically modified plants and food and unlimited spraying of poisons. Why is he not managing the White House Garden? Talk about putting the fox in the chicken coop. Get rid of this bum!

    July 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bynum

    Mr. V.
    I am appalled at your statement that you "take full blame of the decision to fire Mrs. Sherrod. Based on what? What was told to you? Without any investigation into the matter? You have a huge responsibility. You are supervisor to many employees. Your employees are real people with real families and very real lives; and you would so callously make the decision without any investigation to take their livelyhood away. You said you take full responsibility for this incident. Mr. V. YOU ARE FIRED!

    July 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |