Obama administration officials knew they did not have all the facts last summer when they rushed to dismiss Shirley Sherrod from the Agriculture Department after learning of a video that painted her as a racist, newly released e-mails show.
The day after Sherrod's ouster, even as USDA officials acknowledged in internal memos that they had not seen the full video, a White House senior aide e-mailed them to commend the department for moving quickly so the story would not gain "traction."
As it turned out, Sherrod had been falsely accused, and the actions taken by Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and his senior staff became a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, raising questions about its basic competence and its preoccupation with public perceptions.
The e-mails, some of which were redacted by the Agriculture Department, do not show whether the White House ordered the dismissal, long a point of speculation. Sherrod has said that when department Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook called and asked her to resign, Cook told her the White House wanted her out, but USDA and White House officials have said the decision was made within the agency.
However, the e-mails suggest the White House was watching with interest. "Just wanted you to know that this dismissal came up at our morning senior staff meeting today," Christopher Lu, who serves as Obama's liaison to the Cabinet, wrote to top Agriculture officials early July 20, the morning after Sherrod was ousted. "Everyone complimented USDA on how quickly you took this action," he wrote, adding that it would stop an "unpleasant story" from getting "traction." "Thanks for the great efforts."
Facts be damned, fire the "unpleasant story."
These people in the Obama administration suck.