USDA offers Sherrod civil rights job

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized late Wednesday to former Georgia Director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod for asking her to resign over racial comments without first learning the whole story, and offered her another position within USDA, the Associated Press reported.

Sherrod told AP she would consider the new opportunity. Earlier Wednesday, she had said she might not want her old job back, describing news USDA was reviewing the resignation request as "bittersweet." USDA asked her to step down earlier this week after a conservative group released a video clip of racial comments she made during a March NAACP speech. But Sherrod and others said the remarks were taken out of context.

Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed during a press conference that the White House contacted USDA Tuesday night and agreed a review of Sherrod's resignation should be conducted. Initially supportive of Vilsack's actions, President Obama favored reassessing the situation when new information came to light.

"Decisions were based upon an incomplete set of facts," Gibbs said. He offered an apology to Sherrod from the entire administration.

On Tuesday, NAACP President Ben Jealous formally retracted statements made Monday condemning Sherrod for her comments. During a CNN interview later that evening, NAACP Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Hilary Shelton said the organization apologized to Sherrod after examining the context surrounding her comments made at the organization's own banquet in March.

Shelton said he believes the original video clip was edited to depict Sherrod as a racist. Andrew Breitbart, publisher of BigGovernment.com -- the website responsible for first posting the video of Sherrod -- explained in his own CNN interview on Tuesday that he posted the clip in response to NAACP allegations of racism among members of the conservative Tea Party. "This was about the NAACP attacking the Tea Party, and this is showing racism at an NAACP event," Breitbart said. "I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired."

NAACP has since posted a video of the entre speech on its website, NAACP.org, and urged USDA to reevaluate Sherrod's resignation.

Sherrod's controversial statements involved a 1986 encounter with a white farmer in Georgia, whom she said she did not help as much as she could have because of his race. She went on to say, however, that she learned from the encounter.

"That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white … it is about white and black, but it's not, you know…it opened my eyes," she said.

Sherrod told CNN she now considers the farmer from the story, Robert Spooner, a friend. "The point was to get them [banquet audience members] to understand that we need to look beyond race," she said.

Tuesday night, Spooner, 87, and his wife spoke to Anderson Cooper and Sherrod from their living room in Iron City, Ga. Spooner revealed his reactions to the incident, calling the backlash "hogwash."

"I haven't seen her in 20 years, but she was unbelievably helpful in every way," Spooner said. "She saved our farm. She was just as nice to us as anyone could have been. And as far as racism, it's just ridiculous."

Sherrod explained that she even went as far as to take Spooner and his wife to a second lawyer when the first did not do enough to help save the family's farm. The second lawyer filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Spooner, ultimately allowing the family to keep its property. In the interview, Sherrod said, "I've been promised their phone number." Speaking to Spooner and his wife, she added: "You all can expect a visit from me, hopefully this week, if not this week, it'll be real soon. I seem to have a lot of time to be able to do that."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.