Breitbart Sued by Shirley Sherrod for Libel, Video Edits

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Shirley Sherrod (right) has filed a lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart and others over last year's publication of an edited video of one of her speeches. (Credit: YouTube, NAACPVideos, screenshot)

Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA official who was quickly fired last year after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published an edited video that seemed to show her making racist comments, has sued Breitbart, one of his employees Larry O’Connor and a “John Doe.”

“John Doe” is “an individual whose identity has been concealed by the other defendants and who, according to defendant Breitbart, was involved in the deceptive editing of the video clip and encouraged its publication with the intent to defame Mrs. Sherrod,” according to NPR.

Sherrod stated in August that she intended to sue Breitbart over the story.

Sherrod is suing for “defamation, false light and infliction of emotional distress,” according to her attorney Thomas Clare, who yesterday issued a statement on the suit.  (See the whole statement on Media Matters’ site here.)

In the statement, Clare “announced” the Feb. 11 lawsuit claiming that “a series of defamatory statements” on “with highly edited video clips of a 2009 speech given by Mrs. Sherrod, falsely portrayed her as ‘racially discriminat[ing]’ against a white farmer and managing her federal duties at the USDA ‘through the prism of race and class distinctions.'”

Sherrod is quoted as saying:

“This lawsuit is not about politics or race.  It is not about Right versus Left, the NAACP, or the Tea Party. It is about how quickly, in today’s internet media environment, a person’s good name can become ‘collateral damage’ in an overheated political debate. I strongly believe in a free press and a full discussion of public issues, but not in deliberate distortions of the truth. Mr. Breitbart has never apologized for what he did to me and continues — to this day — to make the same slurs about my character.

Sherrod added that she hasn’t been able to find a job because of the incident, CBS News reported. “I’m not employed and no one’s offered me a job anywhere, so I don’t know where to look at this point.  I’m just trying to survive,” she reportedly said.

On his BigGovernment site, Breitbart issued a statement referring to it as a “Pigford Lawsuit.”  In the statement, Breitbart referred to himself as a “new media entrepeneur” and without naming Sherrod, “announced” that Breitbart and O’Connor were sued “by a central figure in the Pigford ‘back-door’ reparations case.”

Pigford v. Glickman is “a class action lawsuit against” the USDA claiming “racial discrimination in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1983 and 1997,” according to Wikipedia and the Atlantic.  (Read more about the case on the Atlantic’s website here.)

According to Breitbart’s site, Breitbart said:

“I find it extremely telling that this lawsuit was brought almost seven months after the alleged incidents that caused a national media frenzy occurred. It is no coincidence that this lawsuit was filed one day after I held a press conference revealing audio proof of orchestrated and systemic Pigford fraud. I can promise you this: neither I, nor my journalistic
websites, will or can be silenced by the institutional Left, which is obviously funding this lawsuit. I welcome the judicial discovery process, including finding out which groups are doing so.”

“The lawsuit served today does not name as co-Defendants President Barack Obama, the USDA and USDA head Tom Vilsack, even though it is they who fired the Pigford claimant, and who, according to the Pigford claimant herself, denied her due process.

Further, the statement claimed: “Breitbart is absolutely confident of being fully vindicated.”

The Wall Street Journal posted the lawsuit filing here.

The Los Angeles Times noted that “The lawsuit does not request a specific award and seeks punitive damages. It also requests that Breitbart and his company remove all ‘defamatory language and video’ from his blog at — as well as from YouTube.”

In an interview with Slate, Breitbart commented that “The National Black Farmers Association is holding a press conference” just days after the suit was filed. “The timing is not a coincidence.”

Further, Breitbart said “This lawsuit is a last-ditch attempt to shock me into silence, and it won’t work.”

See iMediaEthics’ coverage of Shirley Sherrod here.


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Breitbart Sued by Shirley Sherrod for Libel, Video Edits

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