July 21st, 2010
01:24 PM ET
13 years ago

Aides: White House trying to distance Obama from Sherrod controversy

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/21/art.obama.blue.gi.jpg caption="White House aides said Wednesday they do not expect President Barack Obama to call Shirley Sherrod."]Washington (CNN) - White House aides said Wednesday they do not expect President Barack Obama to call Shirley Sherrod, the black former USDA employee who resigned after a video clip of her discussing a white farmer surfaced earlier this week.

Obama did not appear at the White House briefing Wednesday to discuss the issue. At the briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to Sherrod on behalf of the administration.

Last year, the president did make a surprise appearance at a briefing to address reporters regarding the controversy surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., even though White House officials had said he wouldn't speak publicly about it.

"No more beer summits here," one aide said. After Gates' arrest, Obama, Gates and police Sgt. James Crowley met at the White House for beers.

Aides are doing all they can to keep the resignation of Sherrod as far away from the president as possible. They are emphasizing that it was not a White House-driven decision and the review of the situation now taking place is not a White House review. The aides said the White House is trying to convey that this story expressly belongs to the Agriculture Department.

White House aides acknowledge that Americans have seen the tape of Sherrod's remarks, that it speaks for itself and that even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has acknowledged the case merits a complete review.

Aides say there was a good deal of debate Tuesday among White House officials over whether Sherrod should resign.

Many initially supported Vilsack's conclusion that her position at USDA had been compromised over the controversy and she should step down, they said. Others believed a more thorough review of her remarks was required.

After the full tape was made available on the internet through the NAACP about 7 p.m. Tuesday, the White House contacted the USDA later that night to push Vilsack to reopen Sherrod's case.

Gibbs confirmed that account at the Wednesday briefing, saying the White House contacted the Agriculture Department on Tuesday night to ensure that "fairness" occurred in the Sherrod case based on the more complete information available about her remarks.

Filed under: President Obama • Tom Vilsack
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    In Obama's own words, the administration "acted stupidly". But you won't hear him say it.

    July 21, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Julia- Idaho Native American

    Shirley Sherrod needs to sue Fox News, this is nothing but pure slander, and while you're at it sue to government for firing you based on lies from Fox TABLOID NEWS.

    July 21, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Jeff Spangler

    Excellent advice, Axe. Let the NAACP and every Democratic Brutha and Sista who can't pronounce words ending with "ing" further marginalize themselves by their own whining.

    July 21, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. joe m

    to repeat an obeservation made by someone else, for a team that managed a brilliant campaign, this administration has been governing in an ameturish manner.

    just goes to show governing is so different from campaigning.

    July 21, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Steve- Illinois

    That's a good one! The NAACP had the whole tape all the time, just never bothered to check it, the White House and the USDA both went with their usual "knee jerk" reactions and blew it again! This from the administration of the great thinker! If they keep it up, the President will be spending all of his time having beers in the garden.

    July 21, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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