Custom Search

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Was Quickly Fired & Sacrificed For Political Reasons

Obama Administration E-Mails Show Rush To Judgment On Sherrod Was About Politics

Newly released documents give the public its first look inside the Obama administration's internal deliberations over whether to fire Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod, and the hundreds of e-mails clearly confirm officials pushed her out for political reasons despite knowing they did not have the full context of the explosive video that thrust her into the national spotlight.

There is no smoking gun proving Sherrod's original allegation that the White House forced the Agriculture Department to fire her in order to contain any political damage. But the documents do show that top White House aides like then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel were keeping tabs on the matter as it unfolded, and in the initial hours after her firing other White House officials were thankful that Sherrod had been ousted so quickly.

"Just wanted you to know that this dismissal came up at our morning senior staff meeting today," Christopher Lu, who serves as the White House's liaison to the Cabinet, wrote to senior Agriculture officials on the morning of July 20, the day after Sherrod was fired.

"Everyone complimented USDA on how quickly you took this action," Lu wrote, noting that the swift move helped stop an "unpleasant story" from gaining any "traction" in the early hours of the flare-up.

"Thanks for the great efforts," Lu concluded to the Agriculture officials.

Another Agriculture Department e-mail later on July 20, as public outrage grew on the second day of the imbroglio, shows that Emanuel spoke at least once to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as the administration weighed whether to apologize to Sherrod and offer her a new job. "Rahm calling Secy now," the e-mail said.

The e-mails, obtained by CNN through a Freedom of Information Act request, also show that Vilsack pressured his staff to get rid of Sherrod even though officials within his department knew full well that there may have been more context to the video showing that in fact Sherrod was not racist.

The story first blew up on July 19, when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted online a brief video clip of Sherrod, who is African-American, delivering a speech to an NAACP convention earlier this year. Breitbart only posted the part of the speech where Sherrod recounted an episode where she decided to not help a white farmer who needed government aid to stay afloat.

Breitbart, however, did not include longer parts of the speech which showed that Sherrod explained to the audience that the incident occurred many years ago - not during the Obama administration - and that she eventually helped the white farmer. Her message in the speech was all about reconciliation and helping people of all races, a point that was drowned out in the selectively-edited clip that gave the impression that an Obama official had deliberately let a white farmer go belly up.

The e-mails show that after the Agriculture Department learned that the partial video had been posted, and that other media outlets like Fox News Channel might be following up on it, there was alarm within the Obama administration about potential fallout.

"I was just informed of a video of the Georgia State Director that was posted on the Internet earlier this afternoon," Agriculture Department official wrote at 1:56 p.m. on July 19. "It speaks for itself and you need to watch it right away."

But the e-mails also show that some Obama officials were cautious and urged that the full video be tracked down before there was a rash decision about Sherrod's fate.

"We need to make sure someone has seen the video," Agriculture official Krysta Harden wrote in an e-mail at 3:06 p.m. on July 19. "I am quick to jump to conclusions but want to be certain it is what it is said to be before I tell the Secy" she said in reference to Vilsack.

But another Agriculture official, Carol Jett, piped in otherwise: "We need to take immediate action."

Harden added that Vilsack "is absolutely sick and mad over the S Sherrod issue. He wants her immediately on [administrative] leave."

"Concur," wrote Agriculture official John Berge. "She should be fired."

Sherrod was eventually fired by top Vilsack aide Cheryl Cook. Sherrod repeatedly told CNN that Cook told her she had to step aside because the White House wanted her out, though the administration denied that was the reason.

Within two days of the firing, Vilsack acknowledged there should have been a fuller examination of the facts before she was fired. Vilsack apologized to Sherrod and offered her a new job.

Sherrod has still not accepted the post, and she did not return a call on Friday seeking reaction to the release of the emails.

Statement from Shirley Sherrod Regarding Chain of Emails Leading to Her Dismissal:

"While the newly reported details surrounding my dismissal from the United States Department of Agriculture shed light on decisions that were made within the Department, I have accepted the apologies of both President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

I do believe, however, that this incident is an undeniable teaching moment for this country. As we continue to examine the importance of diversity among all ranks of government and the private sector, we cannot forget that racism still exists. We need to combat it once and for all and I look forward to taking an active role in leading that national conversation.

I have always said that I support President Obama and I am available to him and his administration as we find a way to work together to eradicate racism and racial views that are dividing this nation and us as American citizens."

Sources: CNN, Fox News, Youtube

No comments: