WASHINGTON — Ousted Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod said Tuesday that she will not return to the department in a new role.
"I need to take a break from some of all I've had to deal with in the last few weeks," Sherrod said at a hastily arranged news conference at USDA headquarters. She said she hopes to maintain "some kind of relationship" with the department.
Sherrod, who was caricatured as a racist in a selectively edited Internet video, then later vindicated, met at USDA headquarters in Washington with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who first hinted last week that they would soon meet.
"I think I can be helpful to him if I just take a little break and can be more helpful in the future," she said.
The job offers included deputy director of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, which would have been based in Washington, or a senior position in USDA's Georgia office. She turned both down.
Sherrod looked tired at a joint press conference with Vilsack, who she said had pressed her hard to return to the agency. She said she wanted to take time for her family, and to answer the thousands of letters she has received since the ordeal began.
Sherrod's tenure ended abruptly in July when she said she got a call from USDA Undersecretary Cheryl Cook.
Sherrod said that Cook told her that the White House wanted her to quit, and Cook asked Sherrod to pull off to the side of the road and e-mail a letter of resignation. The ordeal apparently left a sour taste.
She said she had forgiven Vilsack and understands that the department will implement new procedures for the treatment of employees, but she does not want to be the one it is tested on.