Shirley Sherrod has issued a statement addressing the defamation suit she filed against Andrew Breitbart in D.C. Superior Court last week. Sherrod was forced to resign from her USDA job last year, after Breitbart posted an edited video of a speech she gave to a Georgia NAACP chapter.
“This lawsuit is not about politics or race,” Sherrod said in a statement sent to Media Matters by her attorney Thomas Clare. “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 also said that although she knows her suit could attract “intense” media interest, she does not currently intend to speak about it further.
The lawsuit alleges that Breitbart was “angered by the NAACP’s claims of racism against the Tea Party” and used Sherrod “to further his own agenda of counter-attacking the NAACP with claims of racism.” In addition to Breitbart, the suit also names Breitbart.tv head Larry O’Connor and a “John Doe,” who allegedly edited the original video of Sherrod’s speech, as co-defendants.
A news release responding to the suit on Breitbart’s Big Government website refers to Sherrod as “a central figure in the Pigford ‘back-door’ reparations case” and suggests that the suit was timed in response to Breitbart’s reporting on the government’s restitution payments to black farmers.
Last year, after the NAACP released the full version of the video edited by Breitbart, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly apologized to Sherrod.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com