Sherrod Refuses USDA Job Offers; May Consult Instead


Shirley Sherrod, the USDA appointee who was fired this summer over allegations of racism stemming from a misleading video, will not take another job with the Departure of Agriculture.

Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the decision in a press conference this morning after meeting face-to-face for the first time since the hullabaloo happened last month.

Sherrod was asked to resign her position as director of rural development for Georgia after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted an edited video of Sherrod speaking to a local Georgia NAACP. In the clip, Sherrod speaks of prejudice she once felt toward a white farmer while working for a nonprofit that was created to help black farmers.But once the whole video was released, it was revealed that Sherrod was using the incident to illustrate how she had overcome her own prejudice.

After seeing the full video, Vilsack apologized. He also offered her a job, a new position in which she would work on civil rights and making the USDA a more equitable organization after years of institutionalized racism.

When she declined, Vilsack said today, he offered her her old job back. She declined again, but the two agreed that Sherrod could do consulting work for the department sometime in the future.

Vilsack also said the USDA will work on its internal communications processes and make sure that he and his chief of staff won’t be traveling at the same time, which, he said is what happened when Sherrod was asked to resign.

Sherrod said she will take some time off before starting any consulting, adding that she has been asked by groups around the country to speak about her experiences.

Sherrod and her husband, a civil rights activist, received a multi-million-dollar settlement last year as part of the Pigford settlement, resulting from discrimination the couple faced while running a collective farm in Georgia.

The Pigford settlement itself is the result of decades of discrimination at the USDA, when the agency refused loans and other help to black farmers. Although the first round of payments have already gone out, Congress has for six months failed to authorize a second settlement of $1.15 billion.

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