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Video: Sherrod: I would love to speak to Obama

  1. Closed captioning of: Sherrod: I would love to speak to Obama

    >> is with us again this morning. ms. sherrod , thank you so much for joining us.

    >> thank you.

    >> you have now received apologies from the usda , the white house and the naacp for their rush to judgment. you've accepted those apologies. you really are a woman, as the secretary put it, who has been through hell. how are you feeling right now?

    >> you know, i've gone from being at such a low on monday, as this was unfolding, and thinking, this is so unreal, to feeling so great about the support i've received from around the country. it's encouraging. it makes me feel that there are many others out there who think like i do, and so many who do not think like the individual who started this in the first place.

    >> let's talk about that. i want to talk about it in a minute. but first of all, do you think that you deserve a phone call from president obama ?

    >> i think i do.

    >> you do?

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> an apology?

    >> well, you know, he is the president of the united states of america . i received the apologies that are important. i really would not want the president to apologize to me. i'd love to have a conversation with him, though.

    >> and what would you say to him?

    >> you know, i'd like to talk to him a little bit about the experience of people like me. people at the grassroots level. people who live out there in rural america , people who live in the south. i know he does not have that kind of experience. let me help him a little bit with how we think, how we live, and the things that are happening.

    >> what do you think he doesn't understand and a lot of the rest of the country doesn't understand about people like you and the way you live and what you're faced with?

    >> you know, we are people who struggle every day, who do the best we can in our community. who love this country. we love him. we want him to be successful, because we feel thinks, in some ways, like we do. and we think that's good for the country. yes, there are issues out there that we are faced with. issues of poverty. issues that i worked so hard on these last 11 months at rural development to try to really have an impact on, mainly because that's me. but the other thing, i want everything to reflect, i want a good reflection for him as the first black president .

    >> but why do you think when it comes to this topic of race, it just presses people's buttons? people are so quick to react without thinking. you're in the center of a storm here. why do you think that is?

    >> you know, this has gone on for years and years, and i thought we were getting to a place where we really could talk about it. but we can't deal with it until we can face each other. that's the whole point i make when i talk. the things that are being done by the gentleman who started this, and i can't even think of his name --

    >> andrew breitbart .

    >> yes. i didn't know of him before this happened. but the things he's doing, being done more to divide us so we can't move on.

    >> but i guess his point was that this is not him versus you. he was trying to point out racism within the membership of the naacp . that when you told that story about being reluctant to help a white farmer, before he realized this was about poverty, that there was acceptance within the crowd, people who are yeah, you're right, what he was trying to say was there's racism in the naacp , the same way they claim there might be racism within the tea party . is there room for debate, for discussion about that?

    >> you know, there's always room for debate and discussion. because that's what will get us to a point where we can tolerate each other. people were not laughing in that audience. and he knew that his actions would take shirley sherrod down. he didn't mind doing that. he thought, i think, he probably hoped, it would also deal with the naacp . but what he did was getting me. and that, i cannot -- well, he's never offered to apologize for what he's done. but that, you know, it would be hard for me to forgive him at this point.

    >> but at some point the white house could have checked and seen the whole video, the usda could have seen the whole video, the naacp could have seen the whole video before going on the attack with you. the white house has said they had nothing to do with your ouster. you have said that you had three phone calls on monday from your superiors saying that the white house was behind it, they wanted you to resign. do you stand by that?

    >> i stand by that. because i asked what has happened? you know, i just couldn't -- it was so -- you know, the first call i received said we're putting you on administrative leave . i had to explain to my leadership staff that we were quite a ways from the office, in a meeting, that i explained what happened, and i told them, i have to leave and go turn this government car in and get my car and go home. you know, i asked -- so first they were putting me on administrative leave . the next call was shirley, we're going to have to ask you to resign. and then the white house wants you to resign. because i'm asking them, what happened? this is just so unbelievable. it was one thing for them to put me an administrative leave and then look into it. but they went from administrative leave directly into asking me to resign.

    >> so obviously you still feel the white house has some explaining to do. meanwhile the usda , the secretary of agriculture has offered you a new job that you're thinking about. what can you tell us about this job?

    >> you know, it's -- it's discrimination happens in the usda . that's why there are lawsuits by black farmers, hispanic farmers, native american farmers, women farmers. and they're because the agency that never deals with the people who call it. no one lost their job because they're discriminated against a black farmer or a native american farmer or a hispanic farmer or a female farmer. those individuals, many of them, some have retired, but many of them are still there. i would not want to be that individual that the department and everyone is looking to to solve the issue of racism in usda . it takes a lot more to get that job done.

    >> so i'm just asking very quickly, what is the job exactly that they'd like you to do?

    >> they talked about the office about me dealing with discrimination within the agency.

    >> and you're inclined to say no to that?

    >> at this moment, i would think i would be.

    >> so as far as you're concerned at this point you're out of the usda for good?

    >> yeah. i haven't seen the offer, you know. the secretary said he would e-mail it to me. i have not seen it yet. so before i say no totally, i would like to look at that to weigh in.

    >> ms. sherrod we appreciate very much you coming in.

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you for everything.

    >> thank you.

    >> best of luck to you.

    >> thanks.

TODAY contributor
updated 7/22/2010 9:18:24 AM ET 2010-07-22T13:18:24

Editor's note: President Barack Obama telephoned Shirley Sherrod, a former government employee, to express "regret" about her racially tinged firing, which the administration now admits was a mistake. For the updated story, click here .

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The federal employee who was fired Monday after a video of her appearing to make racist remarks was posted on a conservative website said she deserves a phone call — but not an apology — from President Obama.

“I think I do,” Shirley Sherrod told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira early Monday in New York.

Vieira asked if the president should also apologize to her.

“He’s the president of the United States of America,” Sherrod said. “I’ve received the apologies that are important. I really would not want the president to apologize to me, but I’d love to have a conversation with him.”

Asked what she’d talk to the president about, the Georgia woman said, “I’d like to talk to him a little bit about the experiences of people like me. People who live out there in rural America. People who live in the South. I know he does not have that kind of experience. Let me help him a little bit with how we think, how we live and the things that are happening.”

Rapid events
After the video was posted, allegations quickly surfaced that Sherrod, who is black, was edited to appear as if she had purposely discriminated against a white farmer 24 years ago, in the wake of generations of discrimination against black farmers. She made the remarks during a March 27 talk to a local NAACP chapter.

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart did not post the full tape of her speech, in which she went on to say that she realized that poverty was the issue, not race. Breitbart had said he was given the partial video by an anonymous source.

Sherrod was quickly fired after the video surfaced, and condemned by the NAACP.

“He knew his actions would take Shirley Sherrod down,” Sherrod said of Breitbart, who said he feels sorry for her, but did not apologize. “It would be hard for me to forgive him at this point.”

After the full tape of her remarks subsequently surfaced, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack apologized to Sherrod and said he has created a new position for her. The NAACP has also apologized.

‘So unbelievable’
Sherrod told Vieira she wants the president and the nation to know that there are many people like her. “We are people who struggle every day, who do the best we can in our community, who love this country,” she said. “We love him. We want him to be successful because we feel he thinks in some ways like we do and we think that’s good for the country. Yes, there are issues out there that we are faced with, issues of poverty, issues that I’ve worked so hard on. I want a good reflection for him as the first black president.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs apologized to Sherrod on behalf of the administration, but said that the decision to fire her was made by the USDA before the White House was informed of the incident.

Sherrod said she was specifically told by Department of Agriculture officials that the White House wanted her resignation in the last of three calls she received Monday.

“I stand by that,” she said. “The first call was, ‘We’re putting you on administrative leave.’ The next call was, ‘Shirley, we’re asking you to resign.’ Then, ‘The White House wants you to resign.’ ”

Sherrod said she asked officials to put her on leave while they investigated her claims that the video was not a complete record of what she had said, but said they would not do that.

“It was just so unbelievable. It would have been one thing to put me on administrative leave and then look into it,” she said.

“This has been going on for years and years,” the former rural development official said. “I thought we were getting to a place where we could talk about it, because we can’t deal with it until we can face each other. That’s the whole point I made when I talked.

“There’s always room for debate and discussion, because that’s what will get us to a point where we can tolerate each other.”

Sherrod told Vieira that no Agriculture Department employee was ever fired for years of discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and women in the department. Some of the officials responsible for institutional discrimination still work at the agency, she said.

“Some have retired, but many of them are still there,” Sherrod told Vieira.

Sherrod said she is not inclined to accept the job Vilsack said he created for her, but has not yet seen a description of it and would not make a final decision until she does.

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