A black former Agriculture Department employee, who resigned after a video clip surfaced of her discussing a white farmer, insisted Tuesday she “went all out” to help the man keep his farm and said she resigned under pressure from the Obama administration.
Shirley Sherrod, who resigned Monday as the department’s director of rural development for Georgia, told CNN she had four calls telling her the White House wanted her to resign.
“They asked me to resign, and in fact they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday,” she said. The last call “asked me to pull to the side of the road and do it [resign],” she said.
“I don’t feel good about it, because I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “… During my time at USDA, I gave it all I had.”
Her resignation came after media outlets aired the video, in which Sherrod, speaking to an audience, said she did not give the white farmer “the full force of what I could do” to help him avoid foreclosure.
She said Tuesday that those remarks were taken out of context and that the 1986 incident, which occurred before she started work for the USDA and was working at a nonprofit, helped her learn to move beyond race. She tells the story to audiences to make that point, she said.
Meanwhile, the wife of the white farmer referenced in the clip told CNN she credits Sherrod with helping her family save their farm. Eloise Spooner remembered Sherrod as “getting in there and doing all she could do to help us.”
he said that when she saw the story of the tape and Sherrod’s resignation on television, “I said, ‘That ain’t right. They have not treated her right.’ ”
And the NAACP, which in a statement Monday called Sherrod’s actions “shameful,” said in a second statement Tuesday it was investigating “the recent revelations about the situation” and was attempting to speak with Sherrod and the farmer, as well as view the full video. The organization said it would speak further “following a full and comprehensive process.”
Conservative website publisher Andrew Breitbart originally posted the video, which was quickly picked up by Fox News. The video says 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.
But that lawyer failed to help, she said. “I did not discriminate against [the farmer]. And, in fact, I went all out to frantically look for a lawyer at the last minute because the first lawyer we went to was not doing anything to really help him. In fact, that lawyer suggested they should just let the farm go.” She was able to find an attorney to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy to help the family stay on the farm, she said.
Eloise Spooner said that later, “after things kind of settled down,” she brought Sherrod some tomatoes out of her garden, and they “had a good visit.”
Sherrod told CNN that she got four calls Monday from Cheryl Cook, USDA rural development undersecretary. In the first, she said, she was told she was being put on administrative leave. In the second, she said, she was told she needed to resign.
Asked if she felt she had an opportunity to explain, Sherrod said, “No, I didn’t. The administration, they were not interested in hearing the truth. No one wanted to hear the truth.”
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Article courtesy cnn.com