Agriculture SecretaryTom Vilsack has admitted that USDA worker Shirley Sherrod was unfairly fired when he made a hasty decision based on inaccurate and misleading facts. Sherrod, the USDA Georgia State Rural Development Director, was featured on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s site in an edited video in which she spoke about not putting her full effort into helping out a white farmer in need. Breitbart was using the video to say that the USDA has perpetuated racial discrimination.
The media picked up on the story and Vilsack ordered Sherrod’s resignation. He says that he alone was responsible for Sherrod’s forced resignation, but the White House agreed with the decision. Later, the story came out that the comments were taken out of context and the video highly edited. Vilsack and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs have since apologized to Sherrod for her firing, acknowledging her record of good work for the USDA and her commitment to civil rights for all people.
In the video clip, Sherrod is heard saying in a speech that she didn’t do all she could to help a white farmer. In the unedited, real version of the speech, however, Sherrod speaks about how she ultimately learned through working with that white farmer and his family that it was important to work for individuals struggling no matter their race.
The speech was given when she was working in her federal position for the USDA, but she was speaking of an event that happened while in a state government position 24 years ago. The farmers she was talking about in the speech publicly defended Sherrod this week, telling members of the media that Sherrod had helped them to save their farm.
Sherrod accepted Vilsack and Gibbs’ apologies and said they could move forward. Vilsack has also offered Sherrod a new job within the USDA, but Sherrod is not sure yet if she will accept the offer.
Vilsack, White House apologize to former USDA official (CNN)