July 21st, 2010
05:07 PM ET

Vilsack apologizes to Sherrod, offers new job

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he has apologized to Shirley Sherrod, who resigned from her Agriculture Department position under pressure this week over a video showing her making comments about a white farmer.

"I started off by extending to her my personal and profound apologies for the pain and discomfort that has been caused to her and to her family over the course of the last several days," Vilsack told reporters late Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

"She was extraordinarily gracious," Vilsack added. "I wanted to make sure that she understood that I regretted the circumstances, and that I accepted full responsibility for that."

Vilsack said he told Sherrod by phone that the USDA would have another position for her should she want it. Sherrod answered that she needed some time to think about it, Vilsack said.

In a video posted online this week, Sherrod, the former USDA director of rural development for Georgia, seems to tell an audience at an NAACP function in March that she did not do her utmost to help a white farmer avoid foreclosure.

However, Sherrod, who is black, later said that the clip shows only 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.

In a portion not originally posted, Sherrod says: "Working with [the farmer] made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who have not. They could be black. They could be white. They could be Hispanic."

Vilsack said Wednesday that he decided to ask Sherrod to resign after seeing only a transcript of the video's first, edited version.

Vilsack said he has focused on reversing a history of discrimination in the department since becoming agriculture secretary, and he reacted hastily in Sherrod's case based only on partial information.

"A good woman has gone through a very difficult period, and I will have to live with that for a very long time," Vilsack said.

Vilsack declined to go into detail about the new position he offered Sherrod, but suggested it would be one relating to civil rights claims that black, Hispanic, female and Native American farmers have made against the department over the years. Vilsack noted that Sherrod herself was once a claimant against the USDA.

Sherrod has a "unique set of skills which I think would lend themselves to assisting and helping USDA as we deal with trying to turn the page on our civil rights chapter, which has been difficult," Vilsack said. "For the last 18 months, we've spent a good deal of time and effort ... to try to resolve thousands of claims that have been filed against the USDA. We're continuing that work, and we had an opportunity to discuss a unique opportunity here at USDA that might be of interest to her."

Earlier Wednesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs apologized on behalf of President Barack Obama's administration.

"A disservice was done. An apology was owed. That's what we've done. Decisions were made based on an incomplete set of facts," Gibbs told a White House news briefing.

Read the full CNN.com story

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Race • U.S.
soundoff (304 Responses)

    It's so sad that people in this county wants to start a race war, don't you people have better thing to do. I just can't see myself spending so much time being bitter. THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR, WE ARE JUST HERE FOR A TIME PERIOD, LOVE, IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL A BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF

    July 21, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David Templeton

    Offering a unique job is a Democrat's way of saying she is being bribed to repair Vilsack and Obama's credibility after Obama's rush to judgement. No one in their right mind believe Vilsack terminated Jerrod; this was Obama's doing a year after calling the Cambridge white policeman "stupid" for arresting a black professor. It may be a "teachable moment" but this immature and ill-suited president doesn't learn from his mistakes and keeps repeating them.

    July 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chris stanley

    Well thats good she shoud'nt have lost her job in the first place over something that was'nt that serious anyway.

    July 22, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. whtvr1

    Maybe she should just go have a beer with the president.

    July 22, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. TEN

    Don't people research or thoroughly investigate allegations such as this before making rash decisions? I'm upset about how this was handled. Our government has the means to have done the research and/or interview those present. (Besides, there are few events that are not captured on an audio or visual recording these days.) I was able to watch a 45 minute recording of Ms. Sherrod's speach, and I am quite pleased with her ability to share her story about how she was able to "change" and become the advocate for the poor, which is inclusive of all races. I am a supporter of the Obama administration, but it seems too many people are getting careless in what they do and appear to be too eager to overcompensate to appease their critics and the Tea Party.

    July 22, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. sssimon

    People should realize by now that anything can be spun to look like anythign else. If it is on TV or any other mainstream media than it is just someone's spin to get you to think and act in a way that they benefit. Period. There is no journalism left in the USA it is all just spin. We need to take back our government (all election campaigns are lies too) and our media.

    July 22, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. HispanicNOLA

    The point most people miss is that BigGovernment.com and Briebart apparently were so intent on discrediting the NAACP, that they went through who-knows how many videos until they could finally find one they could distort and make a story out of. Now an unapologetic Briebart says this was only about discrediting the NAACP (which to him apparently should be the news of the year) and not Ms Sherrod while he and the website adamantly called her a racist federal worker. Can they explain why they called her that if this was not about her? They got Fox "News" to jump on this non-story as FN usually does if it means blowing out of proportion any story that has a miniscule potential of making our current administration look big, bad and racist.
    They got other news organizations' pundits to call for Ms. Sherrod's resignation. They got it. The administration fell for these pathetic tactics and now a woman, who is by all means a true American hero, has had to deal with one more hardship she did not deserve.
    I really hope this is the end of Briebart and his ilk. It should be a big lesson to Fox "News" who has not as of yet retracted or made any kind of apologies for their perpetuation of non-news and race-baiting. Also a big lesson to this administration: You cannot trust Fox "News."

    July 22, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. jojogoat


    July 22, 2010 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. jojogoat

    the bad part is, that no matter how many times the faux news cabal is caught in blatant partisan racist lies, the racist tea party types will still follow and defend them, because they justify their outdated bigoted ways. but lets just be fair, the tea party crowd were just as angry and protested the spending of the bush administration, i mean faux news has it on tape, right? nope. i meant they were outraged over the unnecessary spending of the iraq war, the haliburton cheney connection, the out of control deficitand spending right? nope. i mean according to faux news these patriots were "fair and balanced" in their views right? oh that's right, they were too busy re-electing bush and waiting to form their "financial restraint", smokescreen, i mean patriotic group until a democratic black president was elected. this was a perfect example of using offensive as defense, classic karl rove, richard nixon, neo con, emphasis on the "con" assassination. to deflect the racist elements of your group, try find dirt on someone else, magnify and exaggerate so it makes other news organizations seem behind a big story and by the time the truth comes out, it will be too late to do anything. this isn't stereotyping, anyone who watches faux news in spite of the numerous reality checks from numerous sources on a daily basis is an ignorant bigot, contributing to the demise of true journalism, and humanity.

    July 22, 2010 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bella

    Of course the NAACP let it go....if she were white we'd have had protests in the streets and we'd have NEVER heard the end of it.

    July 22, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. sthamikat

    What bothers me most is that a government official made a decision based on a snippet of a NEWS REPORT. We need government officials who have a backbone and aren't afraid of the media.

    July 22, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. JMaddog

    Vilsack should resign and tell the truth about Obama's involvement and lack of judgement. It would be a great sevice to all Americans to hasten his departure.
    By the way, Fox didn't fire the lady.

    July 22, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. NuShrike

    Anybody basing decisions on the contents of FOX news needs to be fired. Sack Vilsack!

    Obama, if you do not visibly sack Vilsack, or let him resign quietly, YOU will have to take the responsibility for allowing this to happen. YOU will then continue your reputation of being soft when you need to take a stance.

    July 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cara Kriegshauser

    Doesn`t our Government have "just cause"? This lovely lady has gonr through a horific experience because sinple labor practices were not followed... She should have been put off on paid suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, an investigation should have begun with a simple interview with rules Where was the full and complete investigation, where was the investigitory interview with the employee, Where were her rights as a valued employee protected? The only bright spot in this whole mess is the way the TWO PARTIES have handled themselves with grace, poise and class... SO SORRY GERRY SPRINGERi in

    July 22, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
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