President Obama spoke by phone Thursday with fired U.S. Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod, expressing regret for her firing and hoping she will accept the offer of a new position at the agency.
The call helped bring to full circle a rapid chain of events that began late last week when a conservative journalist, Andrew Breitbart, posted a partial video of public remarks Sherrod, who is black, made in March that appeared to be racist.
The Department of Agriculture responded swiftly, pushing Sherrod to submit her resignation before it listened to the entire speech. The full video showed Sherrod describing her personal journey of overcoming racist thoughts as she worked to help a poor white farmer in Georgia. Confirming the full version of her speech in an interview on CNN, the farmer praised Sherrod for helping save his home.
Earlier today at the White House, I spoke with the president’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who said Sherrod had been done a great disservice.
He said the “entire community” — the administration, the news media and the NAACP (which had quickly denounced Sherrod, then apologized after her complete speech was made available) — bears responsibility for the episode, which has been an embarrassment for the nation’s first black president.
“I think the lesson is that in this hothouse of media and politics that we should not act on half information, that we should all fully research the facts before we make judgments, whether it is you in the media or us in government. And, I hope that it’ll be a learning experience for all of us,” Axelrod told me.