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Department of Agriculture Secretary Apologizes After Firing of USDA Employee

Shirley Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod is shown speaking at the 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet on March 27, 2010. (Courtesy YouTube/DCTV/CBS News)

It was a day of controversy in Washington for the Department of Agriculture. The issue of a fired employee made it all the way to the White House.

But Shirely Sherrod could soon be back working for the Agriculture Department.

"We had an opportunity to discuss a unique opportunity here at the USDA which may be of interest to her," says Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Department Secretary.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack publicly offered to rehire Sherrod after abruptly firing her for making this speech.

But Sherrod says the clip- posted by conservative bloggers on the web-was edited.

She says it didn't reflect the entire speech that focused on what she had learned about race after she ignored the plight of a poor farmer 24 years ago because he was white.

"This was just unbelievable to me someone who is so different than how I was being portrayed," says Sherrod.

Sherrod says she is considering the job offer. If she accepts, she would return to the department in a different role than her previous position as state director of rural development in Georgia.

Wednesday's White House press briefing focused almost exclusively on the situation.

"Without a doubt Ms Sherrod is owed an apology," says Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary. "I would do so on behalf of this admininistration."

Sherrod says she resigned under pressure from the White House.

Vilsack maintains the Obama administration exerted no influence- and that he alone decided to fire Sherrod.

"This was my decision," says Vilsack. "I appreciate the concerns... This was my decision, and I made it in haste."

Vilsack says Sherrod has accepted his apology for failing to get the full story.


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