TODAY   |  July 23, 2010

Obama offers apology, new job to Sherrod

During a seven-minute phone call to ousted USDA official Shirley Sherrod, the president expresses his “regret” over her firing — and encourages her to take a new job weeding out discrimination. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> thursday here on "today" former agriculture department official shirley sherrod told us she would like a phone call from president obama and later in the day she got it. but will that call bring an end to the firestorm surrounding her forced resignation? nbc's chief white house correspondent chuck todd has the late latest. chuck, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. well, the president became the latest public official to personally apologize to shirley sherrod . it was a seven-minute phone conversation where the president also encouraged her to take this job that's been specifically designed for her at the agriculture department . sherrod is still undecided and the administration is anxiously awaiting word on whether she'll take it. shirley sherrod after receiving a phone call from the president.

>> after all i've been through, i needed that.

>> reporter: after being unable to reach her, the president finally spoke to sherrod from his private study just off the oval office . he apologized and encouraged sherrod to accept a new job at the department of agriculture . sherrod says she has not yet made a decision.

>> this has been a whirlwind. and i need a little down time and i really have not seen the offer in writing yet.

>> reporter: but the president reassured her their call was just the beginning of a dialogue.

>> i can always get to him, you know, share whatever i need to share and it gets directly to h him.

>> reporter: and the president weighed in for the first time publicly about an interview on prevent something like this ace from happening again.

>> i told my agencies that we have to make sure we're focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be political ly necessary at that very moment. we have to take our time and think these issues through.

>> reporter: it's not the first time mr. obama has found himself uncomfortably in the middle of a race controversy. following the release of the jer jeremiah wright tapes in 2008 . the president went to philadelphia to give his views on race.

>> race is an issue that i believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.

>> reporter: and again exactly one year ago when the president famously weighed in on the arrest of his friend, the prominent harvard professor gates.

>> the cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

>> reporter: after that episode the president ended up hosting a beer summit at the white house to resolve tensions between gates and the cambridge officer. as for sherrod , she said this experience has not made her cynical about the president.

>> i told him right away you are my president. you've always been my president, and i've always wanted to do whatever i could to support you. before he hung up, i did tell him i need to get you down to south georgia .

>> do you think the president is coming?

>> i don't know. i certainly told him -- and i said, bring michelle.

>> reporter: well, the white house is upset about the story for a number of reasons t. overshadowed everything this week. he signed two major bills into law. his choice for the supreme court is on her way to confirmation. that said, the white house believes among the lessons to be learned here for themselves not to be overreactive to what's going on in the media and for the media not to be -- to double-check everything before they go to air. we'll see if everybody takes heed of those lessons, matt.

>> chuck todd at the white house this morning, thanks very