Skip to content

White House Involved In Sherrod Firing

USDA employee Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign after a misleadingly edited video of her was posted by Andrew Breitbart to his website, Big Government.

At the time, the White House blamed her dismissal on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, claiming that the White House had been informed, but not consulted about the firing. But that’s not completely true.

It turns out that emails acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the White House was involved from the time the story broke, and even approved the wording of Vilsack’s public statement.

The next day, it was revealed that Sherrod’s comments were taken completely out of context. Vilsack and the president later apologized and offered to give her job back.

The emails show that the White House was afraid of the media storm that blew up around the story, driven by Fox News, (Bill O’Reilly showed the video and demanded that she resign).

So which is worse? The media falling for a misleading story, or the White House panicking?



  1. TJ wrote:

    Both are awful.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 3:21 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    The White House is also at fault. They have a “situation room” where research is done. No research was done. They took the false information at face value.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink
  3. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Thats exactly how we ended up invading Iraq. Just on a smaller scale.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink
  4. johnny ro wrote:

    The only good part of this micro-nightmare is Ms. Sherrod’s own behavior. All I have read (my only reading is in the “media”) puts her above the fray as a good and decent public servant.

    She was treated as intentional collateral damage by the right and thrown to the wolves by the WH.

    The WH could have turned this into a small victory if they handed it right simply by electing to do the right thing.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink
  5. Richard wrote:

    If Clinton had said “yes, I had sex with that woman and it’s none of your business”…

    Lying compounds problems and in this world of instant lynching on social media and TV best to walk a straight path.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  6. Oregonbird wrote:

    We’ve *always* been aware that the WH was involved from the beginning, and made the final decision. Just as we knew that it coordinated the nation-wide attacks against the Occupation.

    We expect nothing more from Fox. We need much more from any administration – but for our Democratic president (… well, that’s what he ran as, let’s just pretend) to allow our government to be run by Murdoch’s media is past disgusting. It’s treasonous.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  7. just me wrote:

    I’d like to think the WH has learned from this terrible mistake because unlearned lessons are very often repeated.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  8. Patricia wrote:

    This one incident is the marker for why Obama isn’t assured of a second landslide. How sad. Pragmatism is good if it is based on solid facts, not assumptions.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  9. I’m honestly glad that Breitbart is dead.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  10. westomoon wrote:

    Something to remember for the future: no cabinet secretary can fire any political appointee without the okay of the White House. That’s not to say that every such personnel action is reviewed by the President himself, but it does have to be approved by the White House personnel office.

    In this case, saying the White House was involved probably means the lower levels of bureaucracy around the President. And it’s been painfully clear that large tracts of the President’s reporting chain were fired up and not so clear who was the boss of them for the first year or two.

    I did love Ms Sherrod’s response, once the White House had added some grownups to the mix and offered her her job back — “Too late, bozos!” (Not her words, of course — she is the ultimate grownup in the room.)

    Let’s not forget that it was a real-seeming video that everyone, including the White House, went nuts about. And it was Andrew Breitbart’s lie machine that manufactured the phony footage. I’m just sorry Breitbart died before Sherrod’s defamation suit could drag him through the same muck he threw her into.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  11. Patricia wrote:

    WESTOMOON: Thanks for the clarification!

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    Let me just be clear, since some people are jumping to assumptions (which ironically is what they are accusing the White House of doing). The White House did NOT approve firing her. In addition, it is silly to say that Sherrod could not have been fired without approval from the White House. She was not a political appointee.

    I think the White House panicked because of the magnitude of the outrage. Even the NAACP condemned Sherrod when they first saw the video. Propaganda is strong stuff. Constrast this with what happened with Jeremiah Wright — the White House tried to do the right thing, but the media storm kept getting worse and worse until Obama had no choice. I think they didn’t want to repeat that mistake, and instead they reacted a bit too quickly in this case.

    I also don’t think this is similar to how we got into the Iraq war. Dubya didn’t panic and take us into war, he really wanted to go to war and lied to make it happen — and the lies happened over months of time and continue to this day. On the other hand, did not want to fire Sherrod, but the White House panicked and somebody in USDA (probably Vilsack) decided to fire her to get rid of the media firestorm. Then when they realized that they had bad information, they apologized and offered her job back. I don’t think anyone in the Bush administration has apologized for lying us into war in Iraq.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  13. Don wrote:

    I believe that Ms. Sherrod was appointed as to some sources I generally trust. For instance Wikipedia: “On July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her appointed position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture[1] because of video excerpts from her address to a March 2010 NAACP event and commentary posted by blogger Andrew Breitbart on his website.”

    In reading many of the emails, I’d say that the Secty USDA informed the White House grantng them the opportunity to veto the removal actions. The WH chose not to do so and the forced resignation was executed. Fact is, if the WH had said “no” or “hold on a minute” or “how much have we checked out this story from a known enemy of the administration” the debacle that ensued wouldn’t have unfolded. I’m with IK – the administration showed a panic reaction, not a studied reaction. As a former Federal official, this whole thing made me kind of sick. It’s too bad Ms. Sherrod wasn’t civil service. If she had been, she, most likely, would have gotten a much better chance to tell her story before the screws were tightened. All the folks involved in this had to say that first day was, “We’re aware of the allegations and have initiated an internal review. We’ll base our actions on that review.”

    Was this an administration trying to figure out how to run the ship of state? Yeah, I think so. Is Vilsack kind of a dufus? Yeah, I think that’s true, to.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink