By Mandi Bierly
Updated July 21, 2010 at 04:53 PM EDT

This morning, Matt Lauer conducted an impassioned interview with Shirley Sherrod, the Georgia-based official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Obama appointee who was asked to resign after a story she told this March at an NAACP dinner about her initial hesitance to help a white farmer save his land more than 20 years ago was taken out of context by a conservative activist and the Fox News Channel to make her look racist.

“I don’t know who to blame here, Ms. Sherrod. I mean, the activist who put forward this garbage in the first place has an agenda, we shouldn’t be surprised by that. The cable news network that played this garbage on and on and talked about it has an agenda, we shouldn’t be surprised by that. I am shocked at the NAACP, I have to admit, that they did not investigate further before condemning you, and I’m shocked at the Obama Administration for not putting an investigation in place either.”

For those who need a quick catch-up, Sherrod had told the USDA that the posted segment of her speech — “I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farm land, 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” — didn’t represent her full message. That was only the setup for her story about the epiphany she had when the white lawyer to whom she’d sent that white farmer didn’t help him. She found herself phoning everyone she could think of to help her find him one who would — she realized that the Civil Rights movement wasn’t just about black and white, but more about those who have and those who don’t. She was there to help the poor, regardless of their skin color. (She actually says just that at 21:00 in the full video of her speech, which the NAACP has now posted. It’s embedded below. The story begins at 16:38.)

The NAACP, which had initially called Sherrod’s remarks “shameful” and “intolerable,” has since admitted that it was “snookered” by the conservative activist and Fox News and offered an apology to Sherrod, which she has accepted. And the White House has now urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to conduct a thorough review and consider offering Sherrod her job back. Sherrod told Lauer she wasn’t sure she would take it. She’s no longer sure how she’d be treated there since they didn’t listen to her when she begged them to listen to her full story.

Who do you blame? And how do you feel about Lauer’s strong, accurate words? With The Daily Show and The Colbert Report dark this week (so unfortunate), someone had to be the voice of reason.