Shirley Sherrod: Vilsack was "Ready to Throw Me Out"

Overnight, Shirley Sherrod became the most talked about person in Washington. The frenzy over "racist" comments made at an NAACP event in March resulted in her boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, firing her. The NAACP and the White House seemed to back Vilsack's decision.

But, the clip in question turned out to be heavily edited, missing the full context of her speech. After backtracking and a series of mea-culpas, Sherrod may get her job back, but now she may or may not accept. The incident has now sparked a larger debate over the continuing issue of how race is perceived in America, particularly during the presidency of Barack Obama.

On Wednesday's Washington Unplugged, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante spoke with CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford. Plante asked her about the larger issue of race and how Americans handle what is still a delicate subject.

"When the president was elected, he gave the speech on race that a lot of people think saved his campaign, and many people hoped that in this country we had turned a corner; that it was a new day," Crawford said. "But there have been a series of incidents within the last year that show that these issues not only are still very much at the forefront but that are very complex."

In an interview with Crawford, airing on Wednesday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Sherrod said, "You know, when I first realized on the Thursday that this was out there and sent that to the Department [of Agriculture], I really thought I would get support from the department in dealing with it. Got no support at all, and you know, he was just ready to throw me out and get rid of me and go away."

Crawford also noted the story's effect in a 24-hour media cycle. Crawford said, "You've got this 24/7 news cycle of cables, blogs, where you're turning one of the most complex issues in society, race, into a shouting match. It's been a very difficult issue for the administration."

Sherrod also told Crawford of her disappointment, aimed at all parties involved. "She's disappointed in the administration, she's disappointed in the president, she thinks that they reacted so quickly because they're so skittish about race, issues of race and criticism from the Right," Crawford said.

Crawford concluded, "This is an issue, and always has been in this country, and when you've got it turning into shouting matches it's hard to really advance the ball really in a way that solves the problem."

Watch Wednesday's Washington Unplugged above, also featuring and interview with documentarian Alexandra Pelosi about her new film Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County and CBS News' Fernando Suarez on the return of George Washington's whiskey.

"Washington Unplugged,"'s exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on each weekday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.