Obama administration tries to defuse racial furore

The new racial furore stems from a video posted by a conservative Web site.

Washington: The Obama administration on Wednesday was scrambling to defuse a new racial furore, this one stemming from a video posted by a conservative Web site.

The administration dismissed a black US Agriculture Department official after video excerpts were posted in which she appeared to acknowledge using race as a reason for not giving a white farmer as much help as she could have 24 years ago when she worked for a private organisation.

But the full video indicated those remarks were taken out of context and led to fresh calls for the reinstatement of the employee, Shirley Sherrod.

The White House said the administration acted without knowing all the facts and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was trying to reach her to apologise.

The incident is the latest in a series of race-related issues that have garnered national attention since President Barack Obama took office as America`s first black president.

Sherrod`s dismissal has been the talk of cable news shows and has been debated on liberal and conservative blogs.

The Rev Jesse Jackson, a prominent civil rights leader, called on the administration yesterday to apologise for Sherrod`s treatment.

He said the case is even "more egregious" than last year`s controversy, in which Obama criticised a white police officer for his arrest of black Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

That uproar led to a widely-publicised "beer summit”, in which Obama invited Gates and the officer, Sgt James Crowley, to the White House.