WASHINGTON — Flooded with apologies from everywhere, Shirley Sherrod got the biggest "I'm sorry" of all Thursday — from a contrite President Barack Obama, who personally appealed to the ousted worker to come back.
Sherrod, who was forced to resign on Monday because of comments she made at an NAACP gathering, was asked by Obama to rejoin the federal government and transform "this misfortune" into a chance to use her life experiences to help people, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Obama had stayed out of the public brouhaha that followed Sherrod's ouster from the Agriculture Department after a conservative blog posted a heavily edited clip of the black woman's comments and portrayed her as racist. Once it became clear the speech in question was advocating racial reconciliation, not racism, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized and offered her a new job Wednesday. Gibbs also apologized publicly "for the entire administration."
Thursday morning, Obama spoke by phone with Sherrod and said he hoped she would accept Agriculture's offer of a new position, Gibbs said. He added that Obama thought Sherrod was "very gracious."
Sherrod said she hadn't decided whether she would accept the invitation to come back, but she did accept the apologies.
In an excerpt of an ABC News interview broadcast Thursday, Obama said Vilsack was too quick to seek Sherrod's dismissal. "He jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles," Obama said.
The president said he's instructed "my team" to make sure "that we're focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment. We have to take our time and think these issues through."
As top government officials begged for her forgiveness, Sherrod did not shy away from telling her story on television. She hopped from network to network, even chatting with the women of ABC's The View and letting CNN film part of her call with Obama as she traveled the streets of New York City in a car.