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Obama apologizes for Sherrod's forced resignation

Saying Shirley Sherrod had been unfairly forced to resign based on "judgments without all the facts," a spokesman for President Barack Obama offered an apology Wednesday to the former Department of Agriculture employee.

"I'm not here to fault the media; I'm here to apologize on behalf of the administration," said Robert Gibbs.

Sherrod, who was named the department's Director of Rural Development for Georgia last July, was forced to resign by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after a conservative blogger posted a highly edited video of a speech she gave in March.

The edited video, posted by activist Andrew Breibart, twisted her story of overcoming racial prejudice into one in which Sherrod, who is black, appeared to have refused help to a white family threatened with foreclosure.

Reacting to the firing, Eloise Spooner, 82, whose home had faced foreclosure, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Sherrod had helped her family keep their farm in 1986 while Sherrod worked for a nonprofit assisting farmers.

Gibbs said Vilsack had acted without having seen the entire video, and had acted without White House input.

The video depicted a speech Sherrod gave during a March 27 banquet in Georgia of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In the speech, Sherrod said she didn't give "the full force" of her help to the farmer during the incident more than 20 years ago, before she was a federal employee. She said she quickly came to realize that justice demanded that she treat him equally.

"Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't," Sherrod said in the speech. "And they could be black, and they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people."

Vilsack reached Sherrod by telephone later, apologized, and offered her another job within the department. Sherrod told The Associated Press she has not made a decision.

Wednesday, Breitbart told Fox News he learned of the video in April from an unnamed Georgia man. He said he decided to post the video, 2 1/2 minutes out of a 40-minute speech, on the Internet after NAACP national president Ben Jealous condemned the tea party movement for harboring racist elements.

The incident, which dominated Gibbs' daily White House press briefing, again entangled the nation's first black president in racial controversy.

Last July, Obama drew criticism for weighing in on the arrest of black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates by a white police officer.

Jealous said Monday he was "appalled" that Sherrod "mistreated a white farmer ... because of his race." He backpedaled Tuesday, saying his organization had been "snookered" by the video.

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