E-mail shows White House lied about firing Shirley Sherrod

You may recall the controversey over remarks by the USDA's director of rural development in Georgia, Shirley Sherrod, at a meeting of the NAACP about the black farmer's suit against the government.  Sherrod claimed in a video that she was the victim of racism by a white farmer.  The resulting firestorm concluded with Sherrod being fired from her position.

The left claimed that Breitbart had heavily edited the video and that Sherrod was really talking about overcoming her own racism.  Sherrod then sued Andrew Breitbart for defamation.

The White House and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed at the time that it was Vilsack's decision alone to fire Sherrod.  But an e-mail made public in the court case on Monday gives the lie to that statement.

Associated Press:

The email, which was made public Friday in an ongoing federal court case over the matter, shed more light on the evening of July 19, 2010, when the USDA hastily asked Sherrod to resign after a video showing her making supposed racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website. Her dismissal turned into a racial firestorm after it became clear that the video had been edited and her remarks were meant to tell a story of reconciliation.

Both the White House and Vilsack have repeatedly said the agriculture secretary made the decision to ask for Sherrod's resignation without White House input. The emails, along with earlier emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act in 2010 and 2012, make it apparent that Vilsack wanted Sherrod to leave the department and ordered her resignation. But a newly-released email sent by Vilsack himself suggests he was awaiting a decision from White House officials on how to proceed.

"She has offered her resignation which is appropriate," reads an email from the initials "TJV" to Dallas Tonsager, then the USDA undersecretary of rural development and Sherrod's boss. "The WH is involved and we are waiting for the go-ahead to accept her resignation. I suspect some direction from WH soon."

The USDA would not comment on the email and a spokesman, when asked, did not dispute that Vilsack wrote it. The email, sent at 5:37 p.m. on July 19, is in reply to an earlier email from Tonsager addressed to "Mr. Secretary." Vilsack's middle name is James.

The correspondence is evidence in a federal defamation case that Sherrod filed in 2011 against the late blogger Andrew Breitbart, who posted the video, and his colleague Larry O'Connor. The Justice Department has been pushing to keep the emails sealed, but lost Friday afternoon when U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled they did not have to be kept private.

Vilsack's email was brought up at a court status hearing earlier last week. According to a transcript, a lawyer for Breitbart's wife, who was substituted as defendant after the blogger died unexpectedly in 2012, said the email was "extremely telling" and "contains a statement that is arguably inconsistent with the public statements."

Like a good soldier, Vilsack set himself up to take the heat from the black community over Sherrod's firing by saying he alone was responsible.  Sherrod herself is being vindictive and targeting the wrong people.  As Breitbart said when served with notice of the suit, he didn't fire Sherrod – Obama did:

The lawsuit . . . does not name as co-Defendants President Barack Obama, the USDA and USDA head Tom Vilsack, even though it is they who fired [Sherrod], and who, according to [Sherrod] herself, denied her due process.

Mr. Breitbart categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech and, to reiterate, looks forward to exercising his full and broad discovery rights. Mr. Breitbart is absolutely confident of being fully vindicated.

The case has not been going well for the administration or Sherrod.  While this latest revelation won't cause the judge to toss the suit, it substantially weakens Sherrod's case and makes proving defamation all the more difficult.

You may recall the controversey over remarks by the USDA's director of rural development in Georgia, Shirley Sherrod, at a meeting of the NAACP about the black farmer's suit against the government.  Sherrod claimed in a video that she was the victim of racism by a white farmer.  The resulting firestorm concluded with Sherrod being fired from her position.

The left claimed that Breitbart had heavily edited the video and that Sherrod was really talking about overcoming her own racism.  Sherrod then sued Andrew Breitbart for defamation.

The White House and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed at the time that it was Vilsack's decision alone to fire Sherrod.  But an e-mail made public in the court case on Monday gives the lie to that statement.

Associated Press:

The email, which was made public Friday in an ongoing federal court case over the matter, shed more light on the evening of July 19, 2010, when the USDA hastily asked Sherrod to resign after a video showing her making supposed racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website. Her dismissal turned into a racial firestorm after it became clear that the video had been edited and her remarks were meant to tell a story of reconciliation.

Both the White House and Vilsack have repeatedly said the agriculture secretary made the decision to ask for Sherrod's resignation without White House input. The emails, along with earlier emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act in 2010 and 2012, make it apparent that Vilsack wanted Sherrod to leave the department and ordered her resignation. But a newly-released email sent by Vilsack himself suggests he was awaiting a decision from White House officials on how to proceed.

"She has offered her resignation which is appropriate," reads an email from the initials "TJV" to Dallas Tonsager, then the USDA undersecretary of rural development and Sherrod's boss. "The WH is involved and we are waiting for the go-ahead to accept her resignation. I suspect some direction from WH soon."

The USDA would not comment on the email and a spokesman, when asked, did not dispute that Vilsack wrote it. The email, sent at 5:37 p.m. on July 19, is in reply to an earlier email from Tonsager addressed to "Mr. Secretary." Vilsack's middle name is James.

The correspondence is evidence in a federal defamation case that Sherrod filed in 2011 against the late blogger Andrew Breitbart, who posted the video, and his colleague Larry O'Connor. The Justice Department has been pushing to keep the emails sealed, but lost Friday afternoon when U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled they did not have to be kept private.

Vilsack's email was brought up at a court status hearing earlier last week. According to a transcript, a lawyer for Breitbart's wife, who was substituted as defendant after the blogger died unexpectedly in 2012, said the email was "extremely telling" and "contains a statement that is arguably inconsistent with the public statements."

Like a good soldier, Vilsack set himself up to take the heat from the black community over Sherrod's firing by saying he alone was responsible.  Sherrod herself is being vindictive and targeting the wrong people.  As Breitbart said when served with notice of the suit, he didn't fire Sherrod – Obama did:

The lawsuit . . . does not name as co-Defendants President Barack Obama, the USDA and USDA head Tom Vilsack, even though it is they who fired [Sherrod], and who, according to [Sherrod] herself, denied her due process.

Mr. Breitbart categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech and, to reiterate, looks forward to exercising his full and broad discovery rights. Mr. Breitbart is absolutely confident of being fully vindicated.

The case has not been going well for the administration or Sherrod.  While this latest revelation won't cause the judge to toss the suit, it substantially weakens Sherrod's case and makes proving defamation all the more difficult.