AP reports that Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod has declared she will sue right-wing activist publisher Andrew Breitbart for posting a tendentious blog and misleadingly edited video that painted her as a racist. Breitbart post on Sherrod fed a media storm and led Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to force Sherrod to resign.
Sherrod reportedly told a crowd at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention that she would “definitely” sue. “He had to know that he was targeting me,” she said.
Breitbart was also the man behind the videos that led to the defunding and near collapse of low-incoming housing advocacy organization ACORN last year. ACORN employees are now suing the makers of the discredited ACORN videos for damages.
Breitbart posted the reworked video of Sherrod to deflect charges of racism leveled at the tea party movement. The original version presents Sherrod telling a story at an NAACP conference about overcoming her own biases against a white farmer she was asked to help avoid bankruptcy, a man who dismissed Breitbart’s accusations against Sherrod and said Sherrod had saved his farm.
Breitbart has been a lightning rod for years, railing against liberal media bias even as his phony journalism stories attacking liberal politics have rocketed throughout the mainstream mediasphere to great real-world effect, getting people fired and national organizations defunded and shaping the debate on the left and the right.
The ACORN story led Congress to strip the organization of its funding even though the Democrats had gained the majority the previous year and Pres. Obama had won the White House in a landslide. Vilsak, the man who demanded Sherrod resign, is an Obama appointee.
Breitbart stories have been repeated unquestioned by Fox News but also by alleged top liberal outlets such as the New York Times, which resisted rival interpretations and fact-checking of the ACORN story, for instance, for years.
Brad Friedman, who was onto Breitbart in a meticulously documented way long before the story of Breitbart’s edited Sherrod tape broke, puts a typically entertaining and fine point on the news of Sherrod’s decision to sue:
[If Sherrod] keeps her promise to “definitely sue”, it looks like Breitbart, who has spent many years disingenuously decrying the “journalistic malpractice” of others, may soon get a better definition of what that phrase actually means. For those of us who have seen Breitbart’s manic and embarrassing defense of his phony ACORN “Pimp” Hoax videos — the deceptively-edited tapes he published prior to the deceptively-edited Sherrod video he published — we’ve already got a pretty good idea of what that looks like.
Secretary Vilsack has offered Sherrod a new job at the Agriculture department but she has said she has mixed feelings about returning.