Shirley Sherrod Vows to Sue Andrew Breitbart Over Racism Smear

Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA official, plans to sue Andrew BreitbartShirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee who lost her job after a conservative website painted her as a racist, is planning a lawsuit in what could be a landmark case for the blogosphere.

Speaking at the National Association of Black Journalists' annual convention, Sherrod said she will sue Andrew Breitbart, who posted a clip on one of his websites,, in which she appeared to be admitting to denying aid to a farmer because he was white.

The clip was a snippet of a speech Sherrod delivered to an NAACP meeting. It quickly emerged that, in context, it was part of a story about her personal journey toward tolerance and forgiveness -- but not quickly enough to keep Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from demanding and receiving her resignation. He's since offered her an apology and another job.

"Reckless Disregard" for the Truth

If Sherrod does file a libel suit, the outcome could hinge on two questions. The first is whether the defense could establish that Sherrod's government job made her a public figure. In American libel law, to prove defamation, it must be demonstrated that the defendant acted with "actual malice" or a "reckless disregard" for the truth. Were Sherrod determined to be a public figure, her lawyers would have to show that Breitbart knew or should have known that he was misrepresenting the true nature of her remarks. The libel experts who spoke to Joe Strupp of Media Matters believe it would be possible for Sherrod to make that case.

I asked Breitbart, via Web chat, for his reaction to Sherrod's lawsuit threat. He declined to comment directly, instead sending me a series of quotations from others evidently meant to demonstrate the righteousness of his cause. One was from Sherrod herself, delivered to CNN's Tony Harris on July 20: "The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time and they are the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that."

Considering what happened last time Breitbart quoted Sherrod with limited context, you'd think his lawyers would advise him against this line of defense.

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Shirley is anxiously waiting to sue Andrew Breitbart - well, Shirley, keep waiting. I've seen everything and heard Andrew (who I trust and respect), and this is a bunch of crap, typical answer when a black's feelings are hurt, or maybe you even sneezed in their direction. With a black-white Obama, who refers to himself as a black man, you'd think things would be better. No way. He is more of a trouble maker when it comes to race issued than anyone in office. He should have been hope for America, someone the blacks could look up to, to learn from, etc., but he is just the opposite. He forced the white police officer to join him with the black professor - they could have beers together in the yard of the White House. I would tell Obama that I don't drink, I am expected to be near my command post, and my family is waiting for me to do chores and spend time with them. Let me tell you something - if I was in a line or nearby BHO, I would ignore him and never shake his hand as I do not shake hands with people I do not like, ones who have questionable backgrounds, who lie and cheat, etc. It is my God given choice. This Shirley incident is just one of many that will be pushed into our faces, causing more trouble than she is worth. I find her a racist because she did not want to help the old while couple, and how did anyone get all those videos of the white couple so fast? The man was dead a few years, wife was coached, and it was a slap in the face to white America.

August 03 2010 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yes he did.....and if the boss at the USDA is guilty, then so is Breit......

July 31 2010 at 11:43 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Go figure.....ANOTHER could see it a mile away,the ink barely dried on the contract.....he did nothing wrong..sue your boss at the USDA

July 30 2010 at 6:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

...sue the h*ll out of him.......maybe he should've not tried to smear her with such a weak case.....i hope she burns his *ss.....what he did was wrong...

July 30 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The woman is a professional when it comes to lawsuits. With all the Big $$$ Sherrod makes suing organizations, why would anyone want to hire her? It is her
own proactive trigger mouth that initiates the storms around her. And she reaps
the rich rewards as a consequence.

July 30 2010 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank God! Finally , someone , somewhere is in a position , and has the courage to take effective action against these out-of-control conservative extremists. I pray that ms.Sherrod is highly successful in her lawsuit , and that hitting these people in the only place they hurt , their pocketbooks , will clearly demonstrate to all of them that they have at least minimum responsibility to write honest material. I wish you the best of luck Shirley , and thank you , thank you very much.

July 30 2010 at 7:06 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fwagger's comment

This left wing, racist, black supremace group called the naacp started the whole thing with their racist attack on the tea party! You can thank the naacp and the messiah for the worsening race relations. Go shirley go, add to the fire!

July 31 2010 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Corbin

I think she should sue Obama for directing her boss to ask for her resignation, before he investigated what happened. Kind of like the cop that acted stupidly. She's nothing but a racist bigot, looking for an easy way to make a buck.

July 30 2010 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John Corbin's comment

then so is Breitbart....

July 30 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
G Man

This woman has made a million dollars suing people, to include the US government; which is how she got the job to begin with. Her husband is a racist as well. I guess the NAACP should be sued as well? The nightmare is half way over and then we can begin to fix all these broken pieces. wink wink

July 30 2010 at 1:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Unless I'm mistaken she DOES say she discriminated against the white farmer. She says later she became friends with him, helped him and learned from her experience. OK...she discriminated against him and learned from her experience. Am I missing something here ???
If I discriminate against a black man, realize I'm wrong, and change my ways ....I STILL DISCRIMINATED....!!!

July 30 2010 at 12:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'd be willing to bet that 50% of all FOX employees will help pay for the lawyer

July 30 2010 at 12:03 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply