Shirley Sherrod Turns Down New USDA Job Offer

Forner Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod, left, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks during a news conference at the Agriculture Department in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a racial firestorm last month, declined Tuesday to return to the agency, though she said it was tempting. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Shirley Sherrod, Tom Vilsack
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Former Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, who was hastily fired last month after a conservative website misleadingly portrayed her as racist, announced today that she has turned down an offer to return to the department full time.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that Sherrod will in the future work with the department in a consulting capacity to help it improve its civil rights performance. Sherrod said she was tempted to take the position in the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, but she could not accept it "at this point, with all that has happened."

Sherrod previously worked in rural development for the USDA when conservative web publisher Andrew Breitbart released a video clip of remarks she made at a recent NAACP conference. The edited video misleadingly gave the impression Sherrod admitted to discriminating against a white farmer. Sherrod was immediately pressed to resign without an opportunity to explain her remarks.

Sherrod blamed the White House for her resignation, but Vilsack said soon after that he took full responsibility for the undeserved firing. He maintained today that he spoke to no one from the White House before asking for Sherrod's resignation.

"I disappointed the president, I disappointed this administration, I disappointed the country, I disappointed Shirley," Vilsack said, "And I have to live with that."

He added that the whole incident could create "an opportunity for the country to have the kind of conversation Shirley thinks we should have," as well as put a spotlight on efforts the USDA is making in the area of civil rights.

Sherrod said she has had many requests to speak across the country, and she would like to "hear about efforts being made in communities that are dealing with issues of racism."

"We're hearing too much from those who would want to point out the negative right now, and I would like to concentrate on the positive," she said.

Sherrod confirmed that a lawsuit against Breitbart will likely be "forthcoming," but she declined to give any details about her plans to file suit against him.

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