U.S. agri­cul­ture of­fi­cial forced out of post over video of NAACP speech

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

WASHINGTON — A black em­ployee who re­signed from the U.S. Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment over com­ments at a Ge­or­gia NAACP meet­ing said Tues­day the White House forced her out of her job over a man­u­fac­tured racial con­tro­versy.

Shirley Sher­rod, who un­til Tues­day was USDA’s di­rec­tor of ru­ral devel­op­ment in Ge­or­gia, said she was on the road Mon­day when Agri­cul­ture Deputy Un­der­sec­re­tary Ch­eryl Cook called her and told her the White House wanted her to re­sign.

“They called me twice,” Sher­rod said. “The last time, they asked me to pull over the side of the road and sub­mit my res­ig­na­tion on my Black­Berry, and that’s what I did.”

Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack is­sued a state­ment say­ing his agency has no tol­er­ance for dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The con­tro­versy be­gan Mon­day when the con­ser­va­tive web­site Big­Gov­ern­ment.com posted a two-minute, 38-sec­ond video of Sher­rod’s re­marks to a lo­cal NAACP ban­quet. She said the video was se­lec­tively edited and mis­lead­ing, while the white farm fam­ily she was ac­cused of dis­crim­i­nat­ing against came for­ward on Tues­day to praise the help she gave them.

In the video, Sher­rod talks about the first time a white farmer came to her for help when she worked for a non­profit ru­ral farm aid group in 1986. She said he came in act­ing “su­pe­rior” to her and that she de­bated how much help to give him. “I was strug­gling with the fact that so many black peo­ple had lost their farm­land, and here I was, faced with help­ing a white per­son save their land,” she said.

Ini­tially, she said, “I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do.” But, she said, his sit­u­a­tion fi­nally “opened my eyes” that help­ing farm­ers wasn’t so much about race but was “about the poor ver­sus those who have.”

The wife of the white farmer in that case told The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion on Tues­day that Sher­rod “kept us out of bank­ruptcy.” Eloise Spooner, 82, who con­sid­ers Sher­rod a “friend for life,” said the of­fi­cial worked tire­lessly to help the cou­ple hold onto their land as they faced the pos­si­ble loss of their farm in 1986.

“We prob­a­bly wouldn’t have (our farm) to­day if it hadn’t been for her lead­ing us in the right di­rec­tion,” said Spooner, the wife of farmer Roger Spooner of Iron City, Ga. “I wish she could get her job back be­cause she was good to us, I tell you.”

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