Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee who got caught in a ginned-up racial controversy last month, just said she will not accept another position at her old department.
Sherrod lost her job after conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a heavily edited video that appeared to show her bragging about turning down a white farmer because of his race. But once the full video surfaced — showing she was actually talking about the importance of moving beyond race when dealing with others — almost everyone from the White House to the NAACP realized they had gone off half-cocked. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered her a civil rights job at the agency, hoping to smooth things over and ease some of the administration’s embarrassment.
The AP reports Sherrod and Vilsack said she may work with USDA in the future as a consultant on improving minority outreach.
What a difference a day makes in the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. According to three sources who spoke to Politico’s Ben Smith, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina praised the speed at which the administration acted, and reportedly said Tuesday morning:
We could have waited all day — we could have had a media circus — but we took decisive action, and it’s a good example of how to respond in this atmosphere.
And here is White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, just a few minutes ago:
Without a doubt, Ms. Sherrod is owed an apology. I will do so on behalf of the administration. … A disservice was done for which we apologize. … The secretary [Tom Vilsack] is trying to reach her. I hope that the secretary reaches her soon and they have the opportunity to talk. The secretary will apologize for the actions that have taken place over the past 24-36 hours, and on behalf of the administration, I offer our apologies.
I certainly hope Gibbs stretched properly before backpedaling so furiously. You can hurt yourself doing that.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today he is further reviewing the case of Shirley Sherrod, who resigned under pressure Monday as part of a growing racial controversy. The conservative website Biggovernment.com, run by Andrew Breitbart, on Monday posted an edited video of Sherrod, who is black, telling a story about a 1986 incident where she didn’t help a white farmer as much as she could have. But the full video shows Sherrod’s story was meant to illustrate the importance of moving beyond race. In it, she describes how she first steered the white farmer to a white lawyer who could help him, and later on, further helped out the farmer when he was facing bankruptcy.
Breitbart has a history of hyping inflammatory videos that later turn out to be highly edited and slanted. Now Sherrod has been caught in the middle of Breitbart’s grudge against the NAACP. The NAACP, meanwhile, has retracted its earlier condemnation of Sherrod and said it was “snookered” by the edited video.
As for Sherrod, she’s not sure she would come back to USDA even if Vilsack’s review exonerates her.
After the jump, Sherrod’s full remarks (she starts talking about the white farmer about 17 minutes in), and Breitbart’s widely shifting response to criticism yesterday.
CNN has an interview with Shirley Sherrod, an Agriculture Department official who stepped down yesterday after a video surfaced where she describes a 1986 incident where she didn’t help a white farmer as much as she could because of his race. The NAACP applauded her resignation, but Sherrod — who was USDA’s director of rural development in Georgia — said the comments in the video don’t tell the whole story, and said the incident took place before she joined USDA.
What do you think? Did Sherrod cross the line? Or is this a puffed-up controversy?