Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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Vilsack, White House apologize to former USDA official

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday he apologized to Shirley Sherrod for forcing her to resign from her government job in Georgia based on incomplete and misleading reports of a speech she gave.

Vilsack told reporters that he alone made the decision regarding Sherrod, with no White House involvement.

He spoke to Sherrod earlier Wednesday and said he asked for her forgiveness, which she gave. Vilsack also said he offered Sherrod another job in the department, and she was taking a few days to think about it.

"She's a good woman -- she's been put through hell," Vilsack said of Sherrod. He admitted acting too hastily in the case, acknowledging that he was focused on reversing a history of racial discrimination at the agriculture department.

In an interview with CNN later Wednesday, Sherrod said she told Vilsack she accepted his apology and that "we could move on." She also acknowledged being "really hurt" earlier this week by accusations of racism due to the portions of her speech made public.

Sherrod, who is African-American, was forced out after conservative website blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a portion of a speech she gave in which she spoke of not offering her full help to a white farmer. The original post by Breitbart indicated the incident Sherrod mentioned occurred when she worked for the agriculture department, and news outlets quickly picked up on the story.
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