Shirley Sherrod sues Andrew Breitbart

Daniel Keylin Contributor
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Former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod has filed a lawsuit against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart over a video Breitbart released on July 19 of last year. Sherrod’s lawsuit claims that the clip, “damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work,” Salon reported.

Breitbart originally posted an excerpted portion of the video, which showed Sherrod speaking at a NAACP event to a predominantly black audience about denying assistance to a white farmer.

In the clip Breitbart posted, Sherrod recounted her interaction with the white farmer:

“He was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing. But he had come to me for help. What he didn’t know – while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me – was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.

I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So, I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.”

After the 136-second clip went viral, the NAACP condemned Sherrod, prompting USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to fire her.

Soon thereafter, however, the full 43-minute video of the speech was released, revealing that that the clip was heavily edited and that Sherrod went on to discuss how she had actually helped the farmer and befriended him.

A media firestorm erupted, with criticisms directed at Vilsack for rushing to judgment in his firing of Sherrod and at Breitbart for posting the edited video. Pres. Obama and Vilsack called and personally apologized to Sherrod and offered her a new position at the USDA, which Sherrod turned down.

Breitbart, however, has refused to apologize for the clip, claiming that the video showed the crowd “applauding racism” as he said in a July 21 interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Breitbart has maintained that the clip had been sent to him already edited and there had been no malicious attempt to manipulate Sherrod’s words.

Sherrod originally threatened Breitbart with a lawsuit last July, to which Breibart told Newsweek at the time, “until there’s a lawsuit, unless there’s something to answer to, there’s nothing I can comment on.”

After being served the defamation lawsuit at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, Breibart finally had his opportunity to respond to Sherrod.

“This lawsuit was brought almost seven months after the alleged incidents that caused a national media frenzy occurred,” Breitbart said in a statement on his website

“Mr. Breitbart categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech and, to reiterate, looks forward to exercising his full and broad discovery rights. Mr. Breitbart is absolutely confident of being fully vindicated,” the statement said.

Breitbart’s response refers to Sherrod and the lawsuit as the “Pigford claimant,” and “Pigford case,” respectively. Pigford is a reference to the 1997 class action lawsuit Pigford v. Glickman, in which the government settled a discrimination suit by agreeing to pay 400 African American farmers $50,000 each for being denied help by the USDA. A year before Sherrod was hired by the USDA, an advocacy group that she and her husband founded received over $13 million from the settlement, with Sherrod personally receiving $150,000 for “pain and suffering.”