Obama regrets official’s firing over racist remarks

July 23rd, 2010 - 1:18 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, July 22 (DPA) US President Barack Obama regrets the firing of a government official based on a misleading video clip portraying her making racist remarks, the White House said Thursday.
Obama telephoned Shirley Sherrod to express his regret and urged her to accept an offer to return to the Department of Agriculture in the seven-minute call, the White House press office said.

“The president told Sherrod that this misfortune can present an opportunity for her to continue her hard work on behalf of those in need, and he hopes that she will do so,” the White House said.

Sherrod, who is black, was ordered to resign earlier this week by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack after a conservative blogger and radio show host posted a partial video clip of a March speech she had given to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In the speech, Sherrod recalled an incident 24 years ago when she was working for a non-governmental organization on a case involving a white farmer who needed help. She said, at that time, she was less willing to help a white farmer than she would’ve a black one.

The video sparked outage among the conservative media, especially after it aired on Fox News Monday, leading to Sherrod’s dismissal. She went on television to defend herself, and on Wednesday, the NAACP released the entire video.

What the first video failed to show was Sherrod used the anecdote about the farmers to show that she was once mistaken about race, and wanted to highlight the need to help all poor people, regardless of race.

Once the full-length version emerged, apologies began pouring in. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs apologised on behalf of the Obama administration, and Vilsack issued a public apology, faulting himself for not looking into all of the facts and too quickly passing judgement.

“I did not think before I acted and for that reason this poor woman has gone through a very difficult time,” said Vilsack, who has told her she is welcome back at the department.

Sherrod had appeared on various US television programmes Thursday morning, saying she would like to speak with Obama about the issue. She told NBC’s Today show that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go back to the Department of Agriculture but would look into the offer.

“You know, I have not seen the full offer yet,” she said. “I need to talk to them more. And I told (Vilsack) I need to think about it. We certainly need to have other conversations.”

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