WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House was immediately involved in the Agriculture Department’s decision to ask USDA employee Shirley Sherrod to resign in 2010, according to nearly 2,000 pages of internal e-mails released by the administration.
E-mails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act don’t contradict Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s assertion that he alone made the decision to oust Sherrod over a speech posted on a conservative website that initially appeared to be racist.
But they do show that White House officials were closely involved in the process from the first minutes the scandal began to emerge, offering advice and counsel to Agriculture Department officials.
USDA officials asked Sherrod, who is black, to resign after an edited video of her making supposedly racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website. It became clear that Sherrod’s speech was about racial reconciliation once the entire video emerged, and Vilsack apologized and asked her to return to the department, but she declined.
President Barack Obama also offered an apology as her ouster created a racial firestorm.