Still reeling after the controversy that lead to her forced resignation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last July, ex-USDA employee Shirley Sherrod is suing the man responsible for the video that caused her firing.According to the Associated Press, Sherrod’s lawyer recently issued a statement saying she was suing Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger who posted a video online of Sherrod at an NAACP event that was edited to appear as if she was making racist comments. She is seeking an apology, the removal of the video that triggered her resignation and unspecified damages.
The suit was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and accuses Breitbart of “defamation, false light and infliction of emotional distress.”
“This lawsuit is not about politics or race,” Sherrod said in a statement released by her lawyer, according to the AP. “It’s 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.”
Breitbart said he wanted to use the video as a method of showing what he perceived to be racism within the NAACP. He released a statement on his website after the suit was filed.
“I find it extremely telling that this lawsuit was brought almost seven months after the alleged incidents that caused a national media frenzy occurred,” Breitbart said. “I can tell 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 clip caused a swarm of controversy last July. It showed Sherrod giving a speech to an NAACP group, in which she told a story about deciding whether to help a white farmer save his land from foreclosure. While she explained that she was initially reluctant to help him, she said that she looked beyond race and provided her assistance. She also added that she later became friends with the farmer and his family. Breinbart’s video excluded these comments, portraying only her refusal to help the white farmer.
The incident cost Sherrod her position at the USDA, where she was Georgia state director of rural development. She resigned under pressure from the White House. Also, while the White House initially spoke against Sherrod following the incident, officials later asked for her forgiveness and proposed to her a “unique opportunity.” She later declined the offer.
In a recent interview with the AP, Sherrod spoke of her hardships while being out of work.
“I’m not employed and no one’s offered me a job anywhere, so I don’t know where to look at this point,” Sherrod said. “I’m just trying to survive.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has since spoke with Sherrod and voiced his hopes to work with her on another USDA project.
The first hearing on Sherrod’s suit is set to take place in May.