Reporting from Washington —
The White House has apologized to a former USDA employee it now says was fired before the situation involving controversial videotaped comments was fully reviewed.
"A disservice was done, for which we apologize," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday afternoon, saying he spoke for the entire administration.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was attempting to reach the former employee, Shirley Sherrod, to speak further about the matter, Gibbs added. Vilsack said in a statement released overnight that he would reconsider the department's decision to demand Sherrod's resignation.
Although apologizing for the White House specifically, Gibbs said the media and political activists also were culpable for making "determinations and judgments without a full set of facts."
"I don't think there's any doubt that if we all look at this," Gibbs said, "one of the great lessons we will take away from this is to ask all the questions first."
Sherrod was asked to resign after a conservative website showed edited video of her at an NAACP event saying she would refuse to help a white Georgia farmer because of her personal prejudice. Additional footage was later released that showed Sherrod's full remarks, in which she used the incident to make a larger point about reconciliation.
Gibbs denied that anyone in the White House had demanded Sherrod's resignation.
"This was…a decision that was made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," he said.
Gibbs also said Vilsack's job was not in jeopardy and that he was doing "terrific work."
President Obama had been briefed about the incident Tuesday and Wednesday. There were no plans yet for him to address the incident himself, Gibbs said.