USDA official resigns over racial comments

An Agriculture Department official resigned on Monday over controversial racial remarks she made at a March NAACP banquet, according to various news reports.

USDA Georgia State Director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod told CNN Tuesday that the Obama administration forced her to resign after she described during the March NAACP speech 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. Sherrod, who is African American, was the state's director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund at the time. Historically, the organization's mission is to provide aid to black farmers.

Sherrod's remarks came to a light after BigGovernment.com posted a video clip on Monday of her speech at the banquet. She told those in the audience that 24 years ago she didn't give the white farmer "the full force of what I could do. I did enough so that when he, I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me. Either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture. He needed to go back and report that I did try to help him."

Sherrod admitted during the speech she later realized she had been wrong in limiting aid to the white farmer, but did not say that she took any recourse to correct her mistake.

Sherrod told CNN she now considers the white farmer from the story, Robert Spooner, a friend. She said, "The point was to get them [banquet audience members] to understand that we need to look beyond race." Sherrod said she resigned after what she described as "harassment" from the administration. "The administration was not interested in hearing the truth."

Sherrod was appointed to her position at USDA in July 2009.

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