In a press conference at the White House just moments ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who fired USDA employee Shirley Sherrod on Monday after being duped into believing she gave a racist speech, apologized for his actions and said that he’s offered a new position to Sherrod.
Having faced 48 hours of flack since firing Sherrod based solely on a video put together by Andrew Breitbart, a noted conservative activist, Vilsack looked tired and eager to put the controversy behind him. “I apologize for any pain and discomfort that’s been caused to [Sherrod] and her family,” he said, adding that he “deeply regrets” his actions. Vilsack also said he’d spoken with Sherrod in person earlier in the day to share his apologies directly. “[Sherrod],” he said, “was extraordinarily gracious.”
Vilsack wouldn’t specify what job he’d offered Sherrod to replace the one she lost; he only said it was “a unique opportunity … that might be of interest” to her. He also didn’t say whether she had accepted the position.
Over the course of this controversy, accusations have been leveled claiming the White House forced Vilsack’s hand on Sherrod. Sherrod herself says that’s what she heard from Agricultural Under Secretary Cheryl Cook. Vilsack called these allegations untrue, saying, “This was my decision and it’s a decision I regret having made in haste. The White House did not pressure me.”
One would be hard pressed to think of a time in recent history that an official as senior as Vilsack has so publicly and earnestly admitted to a mistake. That ought to give you an idea of the severity of his error.
-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer for The Root. Follow him on Twitter.