President Obama Speaks Via Phone With Shirley Sherrod

President Obama spoke to Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official who was ousted after a race flap, and expressed his "regret" over the events of this past week, the White House said this afternoon.

According to the White House, Obama "emphasized that [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack was sincere in his apology yesterday, and in his work to rid USDA of discrimination."

On Thursday morning Agriculture Department officials e-mailed Sherrod a specific job offer and today Obama told her he hoped she would take it.

The president told Sherrod that "this situation may present an opportunity to continue helping people if she's interested, and he hopes that she will do so," the statement from the White House said.

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Obama tried to reach Sherrod twice last night but was unable to leave her a message because her voice mail was full. This morning White House staff continued to reach out to her but were unsuccessful. Eventually Sherrod got the message and called back at which point she spoke to the president.

Obama reached Sherrod by telephone at about 12:35 this afternoon and their conversation lasted for seven minutes.

Sherrod accepted the apology from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the White House, but Sherrod still hasn't decided whether she will accept a job offer.

Sherrod was offered a job tasked with settling lawsuits from minority farmers who say they were discriminated against in applying for farm loans. Vilsack on Wednesday said Sherrod was offered the job because she "has a unique set of skills trying to turn the page on our civil rights chapter which has been difficult."

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But the woman at the center of the national debate on race has said she still needs to discuss it with her family.

"I would not want to be the one person in the agency that everyone is looking at to clear up discrimination in the Department of Agriculture," she told "Good Morning America's" George Stephanopoulos.

The Agriculture Department official, based in Georgia, grabbed national headlines after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip of her from a March NAACP event talking about her dilemma in helping a white farmer 24 years ago.

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Sherrod said this morning she would welcome the opportunity to talk to President Obama, and isn't sure if he is fully behind her. The White House said Obama was first informed of the case Tuesday, most likely in the morning.

"I can't say that the president is fully behind me. I would hope that he is. I'd love to talk to him," she said. "He is not someone who has experienced what I have experienced through life, being a person of color. He might need to hear some of what I could say to him."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday apologized to Sherrod for her abrupt firing, followed quickly by Vilsack who personally apologized to her and took full responsibility for her ouster.

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