Vilsack Apologizes to Ousted USDA Official, Offers to Rehire

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he personally apologized to Shirley Sherrod, the black USDA employee forced to resign after a furor over an edited videotape of remarks she made, and offered to rehire her.

Vilsack said he extended “my personal and profound apologies” and that he accepted “full responsibility.” Sherrod’s “extraordinary history” would help the USDA deal with race relations, he said.

Sherrod “asked for the opportunity to think about it,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack’s statement at the Agriculture Department followed a public apology issued earlier by President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, who said the secretary and others acted without knowing all the facts of the case.

The decision to seek her resignation was “made in haste,” Vilsack said.

At issue was a portion of a speech she gave in March in which she said that during an initial meeting with a white farmer he had acted “superior” and she thought she might not use the “full force” of what she could do to help him.

In the full version, she talks about how that experience caused her to realize that the issue was about the “haves and have nots” and not white versus black. She said she worked hard “calling everybody I could think of” to help the man save his farm, a statement corroborated by the farmer.