Update: 'Pleased' Sherrod invites Obama to visit her in Georgia


CNN reports, "A former Agriculture Department employee who was forced to resign from her job based on incomplete and misleading reports of a speech she gave spoke to President Barack Obama by telephone Thursday."

The White House released the following statement regarding the phone call, USA Today reports:

The President reached Ms. Sherrod by telephone at about 12:35. They spoke for seven minutes.

The President expressed to Ms. Sherrod his regret about the events of the last several days. He emphasized that (Agriculture) Secretary (Tom) Vilsack was sincere in his apology yesterday, and in his work to rid USDA of discrimination.

The President told Ms. 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.

CNN reports, "Shirley Sherrod, who was traveling with CNN personnel, requested privacy during the conversation. She received a text message telling her the president was trying to reach her, and called him, the CNN producer said."

Asked her thoughts on Obama before she spoke to him on the phone Thursday, Sherrod said, "He's my president. I support him fully. I'd like to help him to see some of the things he should do in the future that could be more helpful than what's happening right now to advance the issues of togetherness in this country."

Obama, she said, "hasn't lived the kind of life I've lived. I know that he's African-American, or part African-American ... many of us are not totally black in our genes. I'm one of them. But he really, you know, when you get down to where the rubber meets the road, I think you need to understand a little bit more of what life is like at that level."

CNN Special Investigations Unit producer Julie O'Neill later spoke to Sherrod about her conversation with the president.

As AOL News notes, "O'Neill said Obama had been trying to reach her since Wednesday night."

"The conversation went on for a few minutes," O'Neill said. "She was very, very pleased with the conversation. She gave me a few details afterwards, saying that the president conveyed that Secretary Vilsack was indeed very, very apologetic and very sincere in that apology. She said the president compared some of the things he spoke about in his book, some of the instances of things she's been talking about over the past two days."

CNN adds,

Sherrod was "very, very pleased with the conversation," O'Neill said, and told her Obama had said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was "very apologetic and very sincere." Vilsack apologized to Sherrod on Wednesday and offered her a different position within the department.

Obama compared some of the events this week surrounding Sherrod to things he has written about in his books, O'Neill said. Sherrod "invited him to South Georgia," she added.

(reported by RAW STORY)

Original AP story follows:

Former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she wants to discuss racial issues with President Obama, who's "not someone who has experienced some of the things I've experienced in life."

But she also said on morning news shows she feels there is no need for Obama to apologize for her wretched week, which started with a conservative blogger posting controversial remarks she made, and led to her ouster as an Agriculture Department official and then, ultimately, apologies from both the White House and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The furor centered on a videotape on the Internet of Sherrod's remarks, recalling her reluctance 24 years ago to help a white farmer seeking government assistance. Blogger Andew Breitbart said he posted it to illustrate that racism exists in the NAACP, an argument he was using to counter allegations by the civil rights organization of racism in the tea party.

"He was willing to destroy me ... in order to try to destroy the NAACP," Sherrod said Thursday of Breitbart, saying she still hasn't heard an apology from him. She had argued from the start that her talk was about racial moderation and reconciliation, and that the Internet posting took her speech out of context.

Sherrod also reiterated she isn't certain she'll return to the Agriculture Department, even though the Obama administration acknowledged she was done a disservice by being forced out, invited out, and then rendered cross-government apologies.

Obama said nothing publicly about the developments while administration officials tried to both show his concern and to distance him from the original ouster.

Sherrod said of Obama: "I'd like to help him see some of the things that he could do in the future."

"I really regret what they did. But as I said before, he's my president," Sherrod said. "When you get it down to where the rubber meets the road, I think you need to understand a little more what life is like. I'd love to talk to him, though, or people in his administration ... to help them understand."

"I can't say that the president is fully behind me. I would hope that he is," she added. "I would love to talk to him."

In offering a public apology Wednesday, Vilsack told reporters: "This is a good woman. She's been through hell. ... I could have done and should have done a better job." He addressed the media after speaking to her by phone.

Sherrod accepted Vilsack's apology.

And a new job offer was put on the table as the administration sought to keep the embarrassing events of this week from being more than a three-day distraction.

But will Sherrod want to return to the Agriculture Department?

"They did make an offer. I just told him I need to think about it," said Sherrod in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

How much involvement was there from the White House? Was there White House pressure last Monday to push Sherrod out, when the snippet of remarks incorrectly suggested a racist bias?

"No," insisted Vilsack. He said he made the decision without knowing all the facts and regretted it. "I am accepting the responsibility with deep regret," Vilsack told a news conference.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also insisted the decision was one made at the Agriculture Department and he denied White House pressure for Sherrod's immediate resignation. He apologized to Sherrod "for the entire administration."

The president had been briefed, Gibbs said, and "he talked about the fact that a disservice had been done, an injustice had happened and, because the facts had changed, a review of the decision based on those facts should be taken."

Sherrod appeared Thursday morning on CNN, ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "The Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show and on MSNBC.

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast July 22, 2010.


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