tv CNN Newsroom CNN July 26, 2010 1:00am-2:00am EDT
and clean up the beaches. >> i'll do my best. >> larry: to learn more about deepak chopra's nonviolence pledge go to cnn.com/larryking. hope you -- i don't know if enjoy is the word. i hope you found tonight's program enlightening. see you again tomorrow. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com good evening. our special report, who is shirley sherrod. news to deal with afghanistan. a potential bombshell in what we know in that war especially when it comes to civilian deaths. wikileak.org a whistle-blower website published what it says are nearly 92,000 documents of raw data on the deaths and casualties elected over the past six years.
julie, the founder of the website calls it the total h history of the afghan war. claiming the documents reveal firsthand accounts of relatively small incidents that added up to huge numbers of dead civilians. cnn has not confirmed the a authenticity of the claim or documents which supposedly come from both u.s. military and diplomatic sources pts it's provoke an angry response from the obama administration and national security advise rer general james jones says publishing the documents was "irresponsible and could put lives at risk and threaten national security." the documents were released tonight on the internet but the "new york times" had access it them for weeks. their own reporting strongly suggests what many in the military long suspected. the taliban are getting intelligence and assistance from pakistan. joining me by telephone, chris, what have you found as you have br pobeen poring over these
documents? >> they're so extensive you can go hacking your way through them and in almost any different number of directions. a lot about civilian casualties and suggest many of the incidents of civilian casualties that cathered attention, not nearly the number of the much more reteen events around the country, day in and day out, week in and week out. they tell us something about the connections between the afghan insurgency an operations in pakistan, of the leadership of various insurgent groups. they tell us something about how difficult the war is and how the taliban fights on the ground. they tell us a lot about individual commanders. you can basically -- there are so many records you can go off in almost any direction and try to explore almost any theme about the war. >> yes. as we said, many -- here's a question. how much of this stuff is true? just raw data. not necessarily a documentation
of hard facts? >> reporter: what you have here, a variety of reports of different types. many of them are simple incident reports. the military describing, in their view, from the guys on the ground, what happened, incident by incident. a shooting at a checkpoint. a group of elders, distribution of humanitarian aid in the village. those reports to military are true. do not dispute the authenticity of these reports. their own account of things they were involved in or did. there are other reports that are, what you call an intelligence summary. a distillation of something a source might have brought to someone in the military or someone in the intelligence services. that information like any source base information is only as good as the person who brought it forward. that person may have had a motive or been wrong pup don't know. they serve all the documents together they serve as something of a mosaic. you shouldn't rest much on any one document. it's the body together as you search through the records that
begin to give you sort of a articulated picture of the theme you're interested in looking at. >> from the "new york times," thank you, chris, for your reporting. for more about the organization that release these documents we go to london. what can you tell us about wikileaks and its founder? >> reporter: founded by julian hasan, a former hacker who used his skills at encryption to try and basically put, make the wikileaks' website, allows for secure anonymous whistle-blowers to put their documents in and make them secure and anonymous. now, that means that wekieleaks verifies this information with their other than sources, with their own journalists. we have not been able to independently verify the authenticity of these documents and it's going to take some time. there's more than 90,000 of these reports, but wikileaks so far has a very good track record
and they say they have never put out anything that's been a forgery or hoax, that the track record so far is 100%. now, juliana hasan himself, elusive, travels around the world. has no set permanent home, and he's also believed to have been wanted by fbi officials who have been wanting him for questioning, that's what he believes and is now refusing to travel to the united states. he said his motivation for putting out this information is that he simply wants more transparency. he wants abuses that are conducted in this war to be corrected. here's what he told us in an interview about documents that have been put out today. >> is sort of the total squalor of the war. so all of these being killed, the small events that we haven't
heard about, which numerically lead to the big events, the casualty events. boyte killed by the shell that missed its target. as a result of this air strike. >> reporter: you heard from the "new york times" reporter earlier that, really, there's so much information here that wikileaks itself can't go through all of this. three other newspapers had difficulty, they just scratched the surface of what's in these records. what wikileak says, it's making it open to the public so everybody, not just journalist, soldiers, witnesses, anybody involved in these events can look up the information, verify them and tell the world what's really happening in afghanistan. >> atika, thanks very much. as journalists an administration and others pore over these documents we'll learn much more about them. all of this comes tonight in where in afghanistan one american sailor is reportedly dead, another believed to be in
the hands of the enemy. the tall ban tried to take both men alive but a firefight broke out and wund were was killed. the other sailor was reportedly wounded. the navy has not released the sailors' identities but a u.s. military official says there's a $20,000 reward for information. still ahead here on cnn. >> that this spill was so enormous, yet you're having trouble finding the oil to skim it? >> it's not for lack of trying. >> you heard it right. millions of barrels of crude have spilled into the gulf of mexico and the coast guard officials say they're having a hard time finding it. first, the man who's become the face of the bp disaster, tony hayward, may soon be unemployed. we'll explain. ♪ when you have a different perspective on things
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hayward has been under fire for his handling of the gulf disaster and gave up leadership responsibilities in june. hayward has "the full support of the board." that board meets tomorrow, by the way. out in the gulf, ships returned to the site of the wounded bp well after being chased away by a storm. our david mattingly flew over the site today, and here's what he saw. >> reporter: all the pieces are coming back together in a coast guard flyover of the spill site we saw platforms and ships gearing back up to kill the bp well. after running from cover from a tropical storm that never arrived. but there's one thing we don't see. what happened to all the pools of thick, crude oil? >> this oil is rapidly breaking down. it is very little oil left. we have a few streamers that we located earlier off of grand isle, that perhaps can be skimmed, but right now we're not seeing many targets for where our skimming fleet of 780
skimmers. >> reporter: you realize when you say that, it's so hard for anybody to believe that this spim was so enormous, yet you're having trouble finding the oil to skim it? >> it's not for lack of trying. we've had 50 aircraft saturating this railroad -- very location where satellites indicate there could be oil sheen in the area. so we're going it look just like we would doing search and rescue to see where they target pocket of oil might be over this area. >> reporter: remarkably, the coast guard says service oil from the bp spill could be gone in a matter of weeks, as the sheen and bands of weathered oil continue to dissipate and evaporate. what we're finding out is that the storm didn't have any affect on the oil at all. the waves that it produced weren't strong enough to help bring the oil up. so, in other words, that storm, when it came through, which has
big waves, at a very valuable time. best estimates now, the operations that will fill the well of the driller is at least a week away and the worry lingers of future storms and the impact they could have bp a hurricane season game of cat and mouse, where time is of the essence. david mattingly, cnn, over the gulf of mexico. >> all right, david. last weekend the national tea party federation said it kicked them out after controversial blog posts. the federation called an embarrassment. now mark williams resigned from the tea party express. there he is up next. i will talk with limb and ask him about that post and why he decided to step down. [ male announcer ] there's complete.
the -- over race with the naacp. the national tea party federation says it kicked out his group, the tea party express, for controversial comments he made and on friday, he chose to resign from the tea party express altogether. mark williams joins us now live from sacramento, california. mark is also the author of i should say the book -- "taking back america one tea party at a time." mark, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> you were supposed to be on last weekend but you canceled on us, and this is the first chance i've had to talk to you. so i want to ask you -- why did you resign from the tea party express? >> to take the spotlight off of me. it's a movement. it's not about me. it's not about my ego. it's not about my fat head. i did succeed in getting the naacp to the table. by the way, this tea party federation which represents exactly 40 groups out of 5,000, i was never a member of. i have no idea who they are, but they threw me out. so -- >> so if you say that you wanted to take the spotlight off of you, i have to ask you, then why
did you accept this interview if you don't want to be in the spotlight? >> i weaseled out on you last time. the reason why i canceled last time was because the day before david webb went on tv and did all this nonsense about kicking me out of the group i never belonged to, i had sat down with the urban league, the naacp, reverend al and a bunch of people and we reached an agreement to put the rancor behind us and face common ground. this guy webb looking for headlines, cashing in, whatever it was, decided he'd chime in. that makes me the issue when the issue should be america and what we're working to save. i am still a tea partier. i just don't speak officially for the tea party express. >> listen, i want to go back and read this first, because it's the first time i've had a chance to talk to you. go back and read the first part of your letter to lincoln you posted on your blog and then later removed. it says we colored people don't cotton -- we colored people have taken a vote and decide we don't cotton to that whole, emancipation thing. freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves and take consequences along with the rewards. that is just far too much to ask
of us colored people and we demand that it stop. are you still defending this as satire, mark? >> i defend the idea behind it. i certainly am upset with my sloppy execution of it. but when a group that calls itself colored people says it's against freedom and emancipation and it's against self-determination, the first thing that pops into my mind is those colored people must be speaking for some bizarre group of people that i'm not familiar with. and in people's minds, when they say they use the word colored and black interchangeably, that's in their head. >> i think you're a smart guy. i think you know the naacp is an historic organization which got its name 100 years ago before there was anything about colored, black, african-american. there is some debate about changing the name. but you are a smart enough guy to know you can't use that word just like you can't call people the "n" word. you used to be able to do that. we still say the negro league when we talk about old timers in baseball but you don't walk around calling people negros.
so why do you use this defense? it seems like your being disingenuous. >> i used the name of the group and what they call themselves. and i used the intent behind their -- behind their resolution. and when we sat down and we agreed to put all that behind us, and i agreed on national television, by the way, on another network, that i was over the top with it, we put it behind us. the next day this bottom feeder web just went and destroyed it and turned it into a big debate over me. >> i have to say that mr. webb is not here to defend himself, but i have to say, you also used massa and other things you talked about colored televisions and whatever. that's not appropriate either. >> the color television remark was about socio economic divisions. and, yes, i did change the language. if you go back to the -- i left all the original comments where the post was. there were people who challenged me on my language. i went back in. i agreed with them. and i changed that language.
>> are you sorry for writing some of those things? >> my point that -- beg your pardon? >> are you sorry for writing some of those things? >> am i -- i missed part of what you said. >> are you sorry for writing some of those things, like massa and some of the language that you used? >> i'm sorry for putting it the way i put it because it detracted from a serious message. i wasn't trying to be funny. i was trying to be as serious as a heart attack. any group that calls black people coloreds lectures me on racism. when their goal and the resolution they passed was to increase government dependency. >> okay, mark. let's -- we've exhausted that subject. i want to talk about something else here. about the shirley sherrod story. i want to talk about andrew breitbart. i don't have the exact quotes here. but you said that she should be reinstated, and andrew breitbart posted that out of context clip on this website. do you think he did this as a rebuttal to you, and if so, do
you feel vindicated by it? >> no. he put up what he put up to show the reaction of the people in that room at that naacp meeting where she recounted a 24-year-old story and when she got to the part about how she -- she was inclined to act racist based on what had happened to her in her life, they reacted positively to that. that's what andrew was showing. and i -- and that's absolutely accurate. but she was fired by the obama administration before her name was even mentioned on any tv networks or anything. they reacted immediately in a racist fashion and threw her out. her story is one of overcoming racism. it's a great story. but the people in that room where she told that story were absolutely happy when she got to the part where she said she wanted to act racistly and when she decided that that's not how she wanted to be. >> mark, i would tell you to go back and look at that tape because there's no one applauding or no one cheering or laughing. there are some hmms in there. go back and look at it carefully. the whole tape. i have to run.
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>> reporter: i'm dan lothian at the white house. this will be yet another busy week for president obama as the administration turns its focus to what they see as two important issues with the midterm elections in view. president obama will be talking up jobs and the economy when he hits the road to new jersey, and then later to new york city for a fund-raiser. this is part of an overall effort by the administration to fight to keep democrats in power and also reassure americans that they are doing everything possible to turn the economy around. >> reporter: i'm brianna keilar on capitol hill. a very busy week ahead for congress. the senate is expected to begin debate on a scaled back energy bill. and the house will likely pass a paired down war funding bill before leaving for august recess. and thursday is especially busy. the senate foreign relations committee will hold a hearing where some democrats will allege that bp lobbied britain to release the lockerbie bomber. >> reporter: i'm paul steinhauser at the cnn political desk. with 100 days and counting until november's midterm election, expect a busy week of
fund-eration and campaigning across the country. on thursday, here in washington, congressman charlie rangel is in the hot seat. that's when the house ethics committee is expected to announce just what rules the new york democratic congressman broke. all this could add up with rangel on the stand in a rare congressional trial come september. >> reporter: i'm "showbiz tonight's" a.j. hammer. we are expecting big news breaking this week in the case of the alleged mel gibson rant and rave tapes. police are investigating claims his ex-girlfriend tried to extort him. and also investigating claims that mel abused her. also, could lindsay lohan get out of jail early? this week? "showbiz tonight" has all the big news breaking. live on hln at 5:00 p.m. eastern and still tv's most provocative ercht tamt news show at 11:00 p.m. eastern and pacific. a. all right. thank you. this week, shirley sherrod became a household name. up next, a revealing and inside look at the woman behind the controversy.
and remarkable woman who did everything right but still fell vick tommy to a vicious smear. i spent the day with her to figure out who she is. >> shirley sherrod is a victim -- >> shirley sherrod caught on tape saying something very disturbing. >> i told them get the whole tape and look at the whole tape. >> we begin with the smearing of shirley sherrod. >> this is showing racism at an naacp event. >> he didn't care who he destroyed. >> ms. sherrod must resign immediately. >> no one wanted to hear the truth. >> i don't know what brought up the racist mess. >> this is a good woman. she's been put through hell. >> at the center of this fury and frenzy -- >> please welcome shirley sherrod. >> shirley sherrod, an unassuming woman from rural georgia. now a household name. >> shirley sherrod. >> shirley sherrod. >> shirley sherrod. >> burning up the airwaves. >> racial controversy. >> thrust into a political
firestorm. >> was there ever a discrimination claim filed against you? >> never. >> turning up the heat on the white house. >> on behalf of the administration, i offer our apologies. >> reporter: all this attention couldn't be farther from sherrod's humble roots. roots, though, that grounded her in the dangerous, even deadly world, of racial tension. newton, georgia, the deep south. 180 miles south of atlanta. a typical southern farming town. >> you had to get up before daylight and get food and try to be in the field as the sun was coming up. >> walking down the streets near her hometown, sherrod remembers working in the cotton fields as a young child.
>> you had a sack that you put on, and the sack went over this shoulder. you know, and the opening was here. so you are bending over picking cotton and putting it in the sack. and when it gets full, you got to take it over to a burlap sheet and pour it in there and you did that all the day long. >> reporter: shirley sherrod's family has lived in this area since the 1800s. all farmers, share croppers, who over the years bought more and more of the land they worked. she grew up in a small house with her father and her mother, and five younger sisters. sandra, one of them, recalls how her father always wanted a boy. >> he called us boys' names. shirley was bill. my sister next to shirley was gus. i was sam cook and they still call me sam. and then my sister next to me, she was blue, because she has blue/green eyes and my baby sister was bitty because she was the runt of the group.
in a way, he would talk to us at the dinner table and he would always say, find yourselves. and don't ever forget. help everybody you can. >> my husband always believed in feeding kids. our home was the center for everybody's child to come in and have joy. >> reporter: but the chores were not easy. >> we had to pump water early on. because we didn't have an electric well, and we had to pump water now. not just for us. the cows had to have water. the hogs had to have water. the chickens had to have water. so you know, you're pumping water for everyone. we were so happy when we got an electric pump. we no longer had to pump water. >> so that was your upbringing? >> yes. and church. oh, don't forget church. every time the church doors opened, we were there. >> sherrod's father was a
deacon. she believes it was that devotion that got their family through tough times. >> the lord will make a way somehow. my mother used to sing it around the house all the time. ♪ the lord will make a way you'd hear her singing that, i think i know why now, times were so hard. and she would always sing that song. "the lord will make a way somehow." >> reporter: the farming was hard. being black, even harder. the 1960s, jim crowe laws divided the south and the races. >> growing up in a segregated south for people that don't know about it, what was that like? >> we would always get the hand-me-downs from the white schools.
they got the new buses. we got the used buses. they would get new books. we would get their books that had pages torn out of them. they couldn't even go drink water at the water fountain. they had to go to the colored side, and they had to go to the bathroom where it was filthy. if they went to the restaurant to get a sandwich, you had to go to the back window and they would hand you a sandwich out of the back window. it was rough. >> reporter: and dangerous. >> we knew where to go, where not to go. and if you did, you knew what would happen to you. it was dangerous even on the highway riding along because those -- they had deputies that would stop people and beat up folks. >> sherrod remembers that sheriff. >> he loved being called a gator. and he could do -- i don't know -- i never heard an alligator make a sound myself, but the sound an alligator makes is the sound he would make and it was
supposed to scare you to death. during the civil rights movement in baker county, he had a sign up at his service station saying, "we want white people's business only." yes, i grew up knowing we were powerless. >> reporter: yet, at an early age, shirley witnessed blacks fighting for power. it was the fall of 1961. she was just 14. >> albany, georgia, a negro fight against segregation is led by the reverend martin luther king. >> and if necessary, we must be willing to fill up the jails all over the state of georgia. >> reporter: civil rights leaders descended on nearby albany, georgia, fighting for desegregation through nonviolent protest meetings and marches. ♪ it was called the albany movement, and it lasted nearly a year. more than 1,000 protesters ended up in jail.
it was unsuccessful, yet it made an impression on young shirley. >> you were 14 years old. >> we were supportive of the albany movement. we were raising money to support the albany movement. >> reporter: it was a tough time to live. and even tougher time to grow up. >> i didn't want to live in the south. i planned to get out of the south forever. >> you wanted to leave? >> yes. >> but that all changed. one spring day in 1965. >> they called me to the principal's office. i was such a good girl, good student. i couldn't figure out why they were calling me to the office. but i went and they told me first that he had been shot. >> the murder that changed shirley sherrod's life forever. that's when we come back.
sherrod -- she was shirley miller then -- dreamed of getting out of the deep south. >> we had these big plans for me. i was trying to look at going to school in the north. back then they said a woman would find a husband at college. i thought, okay, i'm not going to risk even going to college in the south because i don't want no husband from the south. i want to go north. >> reporter: meanwhile, her
father was on the verge of fulfilling one of his dreams. with five daughters, his wife was pregnant again. and he was sure this would be a boy. >> he had a room built. the room back there was blue. he said, this is going to be for my boy. and he had planned -- he told me, he said, when we go pick the baby up out of the hospital, i'm going to get you a brand new car and bring my baby home in a car. >> reporter: but the family's dreams were about to shatter. in 1965, in this field, shirley's father and a white neighbor reportedly butted heads. a dispute over who owned which cattle. shirley says witnesses saw the confrontation. >> according to the others, my father told him we don't have to continue arguing. we'll just go to court. and he was walking to his truck to leave. he turned around to say something. the man shot him right up here. >> shirley, at school, was called to the principal's office. >> they brought me in to tell me
first because i'm the oldest. and then they sent for my four sisters. and we were all there in the office just crying. we didn't know whether he was dead or alive. >> that was our hero. that was our dad. and we had a teacher that took us to the hospital. and to see daddy lying out on a bed like that, it was horrible. i mean -- >> reporter: as for prosecuting the suspect -- >> he was never, ever prosecuted. the white grand jury in baker county refused to indict him. >> did it make you hate white people? >> you know, initially, i wanted to hate white people. i wanted to hate -- i wanted to get back at every white person.
my initial thoughts that night was i need to go pick up a gun and go find him. but i knew i couldn't do that because it just wasn't me. >> reporter: everything had been turned upside down. and shirley's cherished plan to head north suddenly seemed uncertain. >> there was a full moon. and i sat there praying and asking god to please give me an answer. i have to do something. i need to do something. >> when you prayed to that god and that full moon what happened? >> it was almost like he spoke to me in my mind. i didn't hear anyone talking but what came to me was that you can give up your dream of living in the north. you can stay in the south and devote your life to working for change. and i remember a calmness came over me. because i had a game plan. >> reporter: after graduating from high school, shirley
enrolled in a local college for black students. her younger sisters integrated the all-white high school and faced a terrifying backlash. >> i was doing homework and i heard all these cars coming down the road. being way out here in the back woods in the country, that's unusual. when i looked out the window, i saw this cross. and it was burning so i went to wake my mother. >> i was in the bed. and she called me and she said, mother, get up there. there's a cross burning out here in the front of the house. i said, what? she said, a cross. >> well, my mother was not afraid. she had children there, young children. my brother just born. of course, she went to get the gun. >> my second daughter was here and i said get on the telephone and start calling some people. >> they came immediately. and they put their cars in front of our house in a line and they started shooting. >> and i went to the door and
they was just loud talking out there and carrying on and i started shooting. >> they knew that our family was very active in the movement. so they were trying to scare us. >> but i really do believe that some of them got sprinkled that night with bullet shots because my brother-in-law and his son was out there just letting it go through the woods. >> that's how we stuck together. that's the strength we gained from each other in the civil rights movement. ♪ let it shine, let it shine ♪ >> reporter: the local civil rights organizer was a transplant from virginia. he helped found the student nonviolent coordinating committee. a young firebrand named charles sherrod. >> we had no idea of the monster that we were undertaking to fight. >> reporter: across the south, white officials were using every trick in the book to keep civil rights activists in check. to keep black voters from turning out.
that helped set the stage for a violent confrontation as demonstrators began to gather here at the courthouse in downtown newton on a day that became known as "bloody saturday." >> i saw some whites coming out of the hardware store with ax handles. and they approached us and started beating us with the ax handles. they beat us down into the ground. >> and my aunt jo, she's a little petite woman. she fell on -- she put her body over here and was hollering at him to stop beating charles because they were going to kill him. >> reporter: but that didn't stop sherrod from driving backwoods roads to meet every black family in the area. >> i was canvassing in baker
county knocking on this door, and three or four pretty girls came to the door. they started talking about this girl, their sister, that was prettier than either one of them. i said, prettier than either one of them? lord, i want to see this girl. so they said, they got a picture. i said, i want to see the picture of your sister. and i pointed it out, and i said, i'm going to marry that girl. >> reporter: he did marry shirley. it was a love story in a land of hate. phone threats became part of the household routine. >> nigger, don't you know i'll blow your head off. we're going to burn you down. we're going to do this and we're going to do the other. it was just the regular, nigger, nigger, nigger. >> i would just tell them to be careful, because i knew they were determined. and i would just tell them to be careful.
my heart would just bleed for them going home because i didn't know whether they would make it there or not. >> she kept telling shirley, you got to stop. but she kept pushing. she said, mother, it's going to be all right. >> reporter: just ahead, organizing black farmers to take on the white establishment. let's go. come on. hurry up. [ laughter ] [ slamming ] [ engines revving ] [ tires screech ] [ engine revving ] [ male announcer ] before you take it on your road trip... we take it on ours. [ children laughing ] now during the summer event, get an exceptionally engineered mercedes-benz like the 2010 c-class, an iihs top safety pick, for 1.9 percent apr or lease one for $349 a month.
here on her family farm in baker county, georgia, shirley sherrod's experiences as a young girl would shape her professional life. with black-owned farms heading toward extinction, sherrod wanted to help. >> that's when she made up her mind that she was going to stay here and try to help make a difference in this community. she was always determined and a strong person. >> reporter: in 1967, shirley and charles set out to change the land, literally. 6,000 acres to be exact. they helped created a land trust for black farmers with a long-range plan to build wealth. it was called "new communities." one acre at a time it grew into one of the largest tracts of black-owned land in the country. >> the whole idea of the new communities was to go about the
country, buying land, holding it in trust and turning it over to local community development corporations. >> reporter: it embodied everything she hoped to achieve when she decided to stay in the south. an achievement that would have made her father proud. but the sherrod's white neighbors viciously opposed it, often resorting to violence, shooting at their home. >> i remember the bullet holes over my bunk bed. it was, i guess, a third of my life i had a bullet hole right by where i slept. >> i was actually asleep and i was awakened by him karate chopping my door in telling me to get down. and you can't imagine what that does to a young child. >> reporter: in the beginning,
the farm was successful. but the drought-stricken '70s forced sherrod's organization to seek an emergency government loan. the money came but not for three years. by then it was much too late. according to the sherrods, white agents were in no hurry to write checks to black farmers. the property was foreclosed on. >> the first three years we made attempts to get loans from fha. this was a government program which promoted itself as the last help that you could get from anywhere. but in our case, when i walked into the office, he told me the only way you're going to get a loan is over my dead body. >> reporter: after losing the farm, life for the sherrod family became very different. money was tight. bills mounted. >> i would walk in a couple of times late at night, getting up, and see my mother crying over the bills. >> reporter: in 1984, shirley sherrod took a job at the federation of southern cooperatives, headquartered in east point, georgia.
her boss was jerry pennant. >> she was able to save a lot of farmers of all races, hundreds of farmers in georgia. that were impacted by shirley. nationwide, probably thousands. >> reporter: one of the white farmers she helped, roger spooner. but she was hesitant to help out at first. and that initial hesitation would later ignite a media frenzy. in 1999, shirley sherrod and other activists sued the u.s. department of agriculture for discrimination. ten years later, pigford versus glickman would be part of the largest civil rights settlement in history. >> finally, on july 8th of last year, our lawyer called me and said, shirley, have you heard? it's like 10:30 at night. she said, we won.
i said, really? she said you want to get how much? i said, is it at least a million. she said it was almost $13 million. he was awarding $150,000 each to me and my husband for mental anguish. >> just weeks after the settlement, sherrod was offered a job at the very department she had just successfully sued. in august of 2009, shirley sherrod became the georgia director of rural development for the department of agriculture. speculation has surfaced raising questions about whether she got the job as part of the settlement. >> one didn't have anything to do with the other. >> reporter: are you surprised people are bringing this up? i don't know. how do you feel about people bringing this up? >> you know, it's -- you know, it's just another way that they try to twist the facts to make it look and seem like something else. >> reporter: during her long career fighting for civil
rights, there was one life-changing moment. a story about her personal struggle over race. the story of that white farmer who came to her for help decades earlier. >> i was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here i was faced with having to help a white person save their land. so i didn't give him the full force of what i could do. when this short edited version of the speech was posted by a right-wing blogger, shirley sherrod was labeled a racist and asked to resign. but there was much more to the story. >> that's when it was revealed to me that it's about those who have versus those who have not. and not so much about white and black. it isn't about white and black. it opened my eyes.
>> reporter: the next day, sherrod appeared on cnn. she said her words had been twisted and taken out of context. >> what was the point? >> the point was to get them to understand we need to look beyond race. >> reporter: stepping into back up her story, 87-year-old roger spooner and his wife elouise. >> reporter: i have someone who wants to speak to this whole controversy. her name is elouise spooner. elouise, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. what do you think of this whole controversy? first of all, what do you think of shirley? >> she's a good friend. they have not treated her right. she's the one i give credit to helping us save our farm. >> reporter: the woman whose father was allegedly killed by a white farmer would have her reputation rescued by a white farmer. sherrod hadn't seen or spoken to the spooners in more than 20 years.
but three days after grabbing headlines across the nation, that would change. >> i want the first hug. this means a lot to us. this means a lot. >> it means so much to me, too. thank you. >> reporter: a long-awaited reunion. a picture of racial unity. >> i'm don lemon. hope you enjoyed it. thanks for watching. i'll see you back here next weekend. have a great night. but five minutes ago, i took symbicort, and symbicort is already helping significantly improve my lung function. so, today, i've noticed a significant difference in my breathing. and i'm doing more of what i want to do. so we're clear -- it doesn't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. my doctor said symbicort is for copd, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
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