WASHINGTON — Shirley Sherrod, ousted from the Agriculture Department during a racial firestorm that embarrassed the Obama administration, rejected on Tuesday an offer to return to the USDA. But at a cordial news conference with the man who asked her to leave — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — she said she may do consulting work for him on racial issues.
She was asked to leave her job as Georgia's director of rural development in July after comments she made in March were misconstrued as racist. She has since received numerous apologies from the administration, including from President Obama himself, and Vilsack asked her to return. But she said at the news conference with a clearly disappointed Vilsack that she did not think she could say yes to a job "at this point, with all that has happened."
Vilsack said she may work with the department in a consulting capacity in the future to help improve outreach to minorities.
"I look forward to some type of relationship with the department in the future," said Sherrod. "We do need to work on the issues of discrimination and race in this country."
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Vilsack had asked her to become the deputy director of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, a new position designed to bolster the department's shaky record on civil rights. He had also given her a chance to return to her former job. Both of them said Tuesday that Sherrod may return to the department as a consultant once an ongoing review of the department's efforts on race issues is completed.