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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 10, 2012

 
Sistah Sherrod

by digby

I guess we already knew the gist of this, but it's still very dispiriting to see it proven out:

White House officials were in close contact with the Agriculture Department in the hours leading up to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to fire USDA employee Shirley Sherrod in 2010, according to nearly 2,000 pages of internal emails released by the administration.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act don’t contradict Vilsack’s assertion that he made the decision to oust Sherrod as the department’s director of rural development in Georgia after an edited video of her making supposed racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website.

But they do show the White House and Agriculture Department officials were sharing information and advice from the first minutes after the scandal began to emerge until Sherrod submitted a resignation hours later at the request of a senior USDA official.
[...]

USDA director of communications Chris Mather sent the White House press office a heads-up email describing the video.

“She goes on to make it a larger case about understanding race .... but looks bad. (Fox News host Bill) O’Reilly just called us for statement,” Mather says in the email.

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin, responds, asking Mather in an email what USDA is going to say about the matter, “and has she been fired? I’ll alert folks here.”

Mather answers, telling Cherlin that Sherrod had been placed on administrative leave. “I guess some folks over there are circling wagons,” Mather says, referring to the White House.

At the same time, Valerie Green of the White House presidential personnel office was emailing the USDA’s White House liaison, Kevin Washo, asking him to loop her in, “Please. Please. Please.”

Washo emails back to her, “I tried calling you.”

In a separate email exchange with Green, Washo asked for records the White House might have on Sherrod, who was a political appointee. Green says she is working on it. Washo replies: “Let me know what counsel says so we can be decisive on this.”

In a later email, Green says, “I still think we need the rest of the speech if we can get it.”

Despite those concerns, USDA officials extracted the resignation from Sherrod that evening. In an email, she offered her resignation but put the Obama administration “on notice that I will get the whole story out.” The next day, Sherrod appeared on numerous television news programs, saying she was unfairly asked to leave.

...Several emails detail White House and USDA calls to members of Congress, civil rights groups and Vilsack the night Sherrod was fired. No one stepped in to stop Vilsack from telling his subordinates to get Sherrod to resign. But it’s clear that the White House kept itself in the loop on the decision to oust her.

“We’re good with this version on this end. Counsel has cleared the language,” White House cabinet communications director Tom Gavin said in an email to the Agriculture Department’s Mather after Mather sent him Vilsack’s initial statement on Sherrod’s firing.


And yet, somehow, the following is also supposed to be true:

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday repeated the administration’s statement that the decision to oust Sherrod was USDA’s alone.

“The emails confirm what we said at the time, which is that the White House had no involvement in the decision made regarding Ms. Sherrod’s employment, her firing, but were made aware of the decision that had been made by the Department of Agriculture,” Carney said.


It was a very tawdry moment and one that exposed once again the hair-trigger reaction on the part of Democrats to refute any idea that they are reverse racists, which has to be the most flat-out dumb political concern in the universe. As the ACORN disgrace also proved, they've turned Sistah Soljah into reflexive ritual.


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