USDA Official Resigns in Racial Flap

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A U.S. Department of Agriculture official who is African American has resigned after a tape of discriminatory comments she made at an NAACP event was posted to the web.

Shirley Sherrod, who had been Georgia’s state director of rural development told CNN the video, first shown by conservative web publisher Andrew Breitbart, was taken out of context. In the clip, Sherrod describes how in 1986 she didn’t offer her “full force” of help to a white farmer. Sherrod told CNN that at the time of the incident, she was not working for the USDA, but for a nonprofit organization and that she had been trying to help the farmer who had been foreclosed on. “I was telling the story of how working with him helped me to see the issue is not about race,” she said “It’s about those who have versus those who do not have.”

Breitbart claims the video was from an NAACP event that took place in March of this year, but it is not completely clear when it was taken.

The USDA, however accepted her resignation with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack saying in a statement: “There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person.” Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP also lamented Sherrod’s comments calling her actions “shameful” and that the group is “appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.”

The video surfacing comes just a week after the NAACP criticized the Tea Party over racism among its members and a split among the Tea Party over a racially charged blog posting by Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams.