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USDA employee resigns over statement about white farmer

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USDA employee resigns over statement about white farmer

Post  AnnaEsse on Tue 20 Jul - 11:49

CNN News

Washington (CNN) -- A black Department of Agriculture employee resigned Monday after conservative media outlets aired a video of her telling an audience she had not given a white farmer "the full force of what I could do" to help him save the family farm.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he had accepted the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, the department's state director of rural development for Georgia.

"There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person," Vilsack said. "We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously."

CNN has attempted to contact Sherrod, but was unable to reach her.

Conservative website publisher Andrew Breitbart originally posted the video, which was quickly picked up by Fox News. The video claims Sherrod's remarks were delivered March 27 to an NAACP Freedom Fund banquet, but it is not clear that is the case, nor is it clear where the event was held or how many people were in attendance.

The poor-quality video shows Sherrod telling her audience that the farmer she was working with "took a long time ... trying to show me he was superior to me." As a result, she said, she "didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."

To prove she had done her job, she said, she took him to a white lawyer.

"I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him," she said.

Sherrod mentioned that the lawyer would help the farmer with a bankruptcy filing but did not say whether his farm was saved.

The NAACP issued a statement late Monday, backing Vilsack's decision.

"Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the civil rights group. "We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."

"Her actions were shameful," Jealous added. "While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man."

The conservative media outlets tied the video to the NAACP's recent resolution calling on the Tea Party movement to repudiate racist elements within it that have displayed such items as images of President Obama with a bone through his nose and the White House with a lawn full of watermelons. The controversy has led one Tea Party group to oust another because of a blog posting by the second group's leader.

Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams posted on his blog a faux letter from Jealous to President Abraham Lincoln in which Williams ridicules the organization's use of "colored" in its historic name and uses multiple other stereotypes to bolster his point.

The National Tea Party Foundation removed Williams' organization from its roles as a result.





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