Tom Vilsack, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, just gave a short press conference where he took total responsibility for the Shirley Sherrod debacle. “I didn’t take the time I should have as a result a good woman has gone through a very difficult period,” said Vilsack, saying he has learned “a very serious lesson.” “It was a decision I regret having made in haste,” he added.
Vilsack said he personally apologized to Sherrod and she accepted his apology. He also reiterated his statement that he received no pressure from the White House to fire Sherrod in the first place. Vilsack also revealed a few new pieces of the puzzle.
1. Shirley Sherrod tried to e-mail Vilsack about the video last Thursday but he never received the message because the e-mail was not addressed properly. Vilsack said the e-mail was also sent to at least one other person at the USDA. It’s not clear yet what this means. Did someone warn Sherrod the video was coming? Breitbart? Whoever leaked it to Breitbart? The NAACP?
2. Vilsack has offered Sherrod a different job in the USDA that is somehow related to the department’s policies on avoiding racial discrimination. He did not elaborate, but said Sherrod’s “life experiences” would make her a great fit in this unnamed position. He said the job is “one that needs to be filled.”
3. This is not new information, but it’s not been main part of the dialogue about this incident. Sherrod has been a claimant against the USDA for racial discrimination. More from me on this later.
“This is a good woman and she’s been put through hell,” said Vilsack, “This is a very teachable moment for me.”