- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There’s a job waiting for Shirley Sherrod at the Agriculture Department, if she wants it.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he apologized by telephone to Mrs. Sherrod on Wednesday and offered her a job within the department, a day after she was pressured to resign after a videotape showed her making what were incorrectly perceived as racist comments.

“I started off by extending to her my personal and profound apology for the pain and discomfort that has been caused to her and her family over the course of the last several days,” said Mr. Vilsack at Wednesday’s hastily called press conference as he described his conversation with Mrs. Sherrod.

He asked her to consider a “unique opportunity” that would take advantage of her years of experience within the department and with rural communities. He said that Mrs. Sherrod told him she would need a few days to think about whether she wanted to accept the offer.


“She has an extraordinary history of helping individuals in trouble and of course she has gone through a very difficult period in the last couple of days,” said Mr. Vilsack.

He insisted that the decision to ask for her resignation was his alone and that “there was no pressure from the White House.”

“This was my decision and it’s a decision I regret having made in haste,” said Mr. Vilsack. As a result, he said, “a good woman has gone 

through a difficult period and I’ll have to live with that for a very long time.”

Mr. Vilsack’s apology and job offer came about an hour after the White House apologized to Mrs. Sherrod. Both the White House and the Agriculture Department have said they will review the entire episode to figure out what went wrong.

“I think everybody has to go back and look at what has happened over the past 24 to 36 hours, and ask ourselves how we got into this. How did we not ask the right questions?” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The USDA’s director of rural development in Georgia, Mrs. Sherrod was forced out after conservative bloggers posted a videotape Monday of her telling an NAACP group that she once held back on offering aid to a white farmer because of his race.

It turns out the incident occurred 24 years ago, and that at the end of the tape, she tells the crowd that she was wrong to have done so because it’s not about “white and black,” but “it’s about poor versus those who have.”

Mrs. Sherrod, who was working for a non-profit farm aid group at the time, did ultimately assist the family. The wife of the farmer, Eloise Spooner, praised Mrs. Sherrod Tuesday for helping  save the farm.

The episode came as the latest salvo in a scuffle over race that began last week when the NAACP condemned the Tea Party movement for its “racist elements and activities.” Tea Party officials have denied that they tolerate racism.

The Obama administration has come under fire for dropping its prosecution of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation in the 2008 election. One former Justice Department official has said the decision was based on race.

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