The Obama White House gave the final “go-ahead” to accept the resignation of former Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod in July 2010 following the release of a video on Breitbart.com which purported to show her making racist comments, new emails reveal. The revelation shows the White House lied when it said it had no involvement in Ms. Sherrod’s resignation.
The late Andrew Breitbart published a video of Sherrod, who is black, telling a crowd at an NAACP event about an encounter she had two decades before with a white farmer in which she said she was reluctant to help him because of his race. Sherrod, however, was vindicated when the next day when video showing the rest of her speech came was published which showed that she referenced her encounter with the white farmer to make a larger point about racial reconciliation.
Ms. Sherrod was offered her job back, but she declined. In 2011, Sherrod filed a defamation lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart and Larry O’Connor (who ran Breitbart video at the time). Sherrod claimed the first version of the video made her appear racist. When the Andrew died publisher died in 2012, Sherrod sued his widow.
The newly released 2010 email from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department was “waiting for the go-ahead” from the White House before accepting the resignation of employee Shirley Sherrod, the Obama administration has always that her ouster was Vilsack’s decision alone.
The email, shed more light on the evening of July 19, 2010, when the USDA hastily asked Sherrod to resign after a video showing her making supposed racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website. Her dismissal turned into a racial firestorm after it became clear that the video had a second half and her remarks were meant to tell a story of reconciliation.
Both the White House and Vilsack have repeatedly said the agriculture secretary made the decision to ask for Sherrod’s resignation without White House input. The emails, along with earlier emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act in 2010 and 2012, make it apparent that Vilsack wanted Sherrod to leave the department and ordered her resignation. But a newly-released email sent by Vilsack himself suggests he was awaiting a decision from White House officials on how to proceed.
“She has offered her resignation which is appropriate,” reads an email from the initials “TJV” to Dallas Tonsager, then the USDA undersecretary of rural development and Sherrod’s boss. “The WH is involved and we are waiting for the go-ahead to accept her resignation. I suspect some direction from WH soon.”
The USDA would not comment on the email and a spokesman, when asked, did not dispute that Vilsack wrote it. The email, sent at 5:37 p.m. on July 19, is in reply to an earlier email from Tonsager addressed to “Mr. Secretary.” Vilsack’s middle name is James.
The Justice Department has been pushing to keep the emails sealed, but lost Friday afternoon when U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled they did not have to be kept private. Justice Department lawyer David Glass replied to the judge that “when there is a reference to the White House was involved, what it means is the White House liaison was involved.”
USDA’s White House liaison, Kevin Washo, was in touch with the White House through the night, according to the documents. In another newly released email, a White House aide writes to Valerie Green of the White House presidential personnel office, saying “USDA is looking for direction — can someone contact Washo?” Green replies that she is “reaching out now.”
Green writes Washo asking him to loop her in, “Please. Please. Please.”
The original article written by Andrew Breitbart was not meant to criticize Sherrod, but to expose the NAACP as sitting on their hands while racist comments were being made. From the original 6/19/10-Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010
In the first video, [in the initial video post the Sherrod speech to the NAACP was in two parts] Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.
Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.
Lawyers for Larry O’Connor filed the new emails in court to bolster their argument that government decisions were the reason for Sherrod’s dismissal, not the blog post. The emails show that the officials were made aware there might be a longer video, and that they were concerned about political fallout from her comments.
Note: At the time the Sherrod story was published I was a contributor to the Breitbart sites and wrote some posts about how the media mis-represented what Andrew wrote.