So What’s Vilsack saying about Sherrod these days?

Just got this mass-message by e-mail.

Dear Tyler Bass,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the events that transpired on the week of July 19, 2010. I have received many letters and emails expressing a wide range of thoughts and opinions. Some questioned the circumstances under which Mrs. Shirley Sherrod was initially asked to resign, others expressed a desire for further accountability for myself and others at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and still others were simply frustrated with the perception that the change they voted for in 2008 was not evident over the course of these events.

Admittedly, I reacted too quickly. As I stated in my news conference on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, I should have taken the time to gather all the facts before making what resulted in a hasty and incorrect decision. I also should have called Mrs. Sherrod to learn her version of the events that had transpired. As a result of my actions, a good woman was put through a very difficult event, and that is something I deeply regret.

I apologized to Mrs. Sherrod that Wednesday and told her I was sorry for the pain this must have caused her and her family. Thankfully, she graciously accepted my apology. While I cannot change what happened, I can try to make something out of this incident. I have offered Mrs. Sherrod a unique opportunity to continue her service at USDA, and I am hopeful that she accepts. USDA needs Mrs. Sherrod and people like her to continue the fight to overcome a history of failures in the area of civil rights.

I will continue to review the circumstances that brought us to this day and I am committed to learning from my mistake. I also remain deeply committed to ensuring progress in correcting USDA’s record on civil rights. In part, that commitment was what caused me to react with such haste when I read the incomplete text of Mrs. Sherrod’s speech. Since I began this job in January 2009, transforming the culture of USDA and resolving allegations of past discrimination quickly and fairly has been a top priority of mine. I am pleased that to date we have reviewed thousands of past complaints and begun to act to bring about justice for many individuals. However, we have much more work to do, and I will not stop until we are finished.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me and share your thoughts.


Thomas J. Vilsack