Sherrod Statement on Breitbart Lawsuit
Attorney Thomas Clare, representing Shirley Sherrod, released the following statement on her behalf today:
Former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod Sues Blogger Andrew Breitbart for Defamation
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2011 - Former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod has filed a lawsuit against blogger Andrew Breitbart, producer Larry O'Connor and an unknown "John Doe" defendant for defamation, false light and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit, filed February 11 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that these individuals authored and posted a series of defamatory statements on Mr. Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website regarding Mrs.Sherrod. These statements, together 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." In reality, Mrs. Sherrod's speech was describing events that occurred more than twenty years before she held her federal position and, in fact, was encouraging people not to discriminate on the basis of race. The patently false statements about her immediately went viral on the Internet, igniting a national media firestorm, costing Mrs. Sherrod her federal position, and severely damaging her reputation earned over decades by helping rural farmers.
"This lawsuit is not about politics or race," Mrs. Sherrod said of the lawsuit. "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.
I am issuing this statement because I know there may be intense media interest in this case. But I do not intend at this time to discuss the lawsuit further, and I hope members of the media will respect that decision."