White House: We didn't pressure Sherrod to resign

Via Tommy Christopher of Mediaite, here’s the denial from an unnamed “official.” Whom to believe — Sherrod, who told not only Fox News but CNN and the AP that she was informed her resignation had been demanded from on high, or the same people who assured us that they never offered Joe Sestak a job, that Barack Obama never contacted Blagojevich’s office about appointing Valerie Jarrett to his Senate seat, etc etc?

Here’s Vilsack’s statement:

“Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod’s resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia.

“Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.”

Contrary to what some are reporting, the White House was not involved in Sherrod’s dismissal. A White house official told Mediaite “We did not pressure her to resign. It was the Secretary’s decision.”

Sherrod claims that it was Cheryl Cook, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for Rural Development, who called her four times(!) yesterday insisting that the White House wanted her out. The charitable interpretation: Maybe what Cook meant by “the White House” was simply that Vilsack, a cabinet member, had given the order. The uncharitable interpretation: Maybe the order really did come down from on high among The One’s political team and now they’re wetting their pants at the backlash they’re getting from the left for pushing Sherrod out before anyone’s seen the full tape of what she’s said. Exit question: Can someone please help Tom Vilsack out from under Obama’s bus?

Update: Further to the point of what might be on the full tape, read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s report on the relationship between Sherrod and Eloise Spooner, the widow wife of the white farmer she spoke about in the clip. Spooner says Sherrod is a “friend for life” who ended up working so diligently on her and her husband’s behalf that Sherrod’s husband allegedly once told her, “You’re spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me.”

Update: My mistake: I initially thought Eloise Spooner was a widow. Roger Spooner is alive and spoke to ABC this afternoon:

Was she at all racist? Did she discriminate on the basis of race?

The farmer in question says no.

“It never, never crossed my mind,” Roger Spooner told ABC News. “Never crossed my mind. Me and the wife, we never, we never, we never saw that at all. Absolutely. It’s unbelievable.”

Spooner told ABC News today that without Sherrod he would have lost the farm.