Shirley Sherrod Sues Breitbart Over Pigford Coverage

Breitbart: “Bring it on”

Shirley Sherrod, USDA: Told white farmer to get help from one of "his own kind"

Shirley Sherrod, USDA: Told white farmer to get help from one of “his own kind”

Read my links and Professor William Jacobson’s archives below for the background on this case. It’s getting too “weighty” to recap every single time.

Someone (we know not who….yet) is funding Shirley Sherrod’s litigation against Andrew Breitbart (of Breitbart.com and all the various “Big” websites) for defamation, false light, and emotional distress for Breitbart’s coverage of the Pigford scandal.

Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection reviews the pleading and concludes, it is very weak. It is considering Breitbart a “public” figure for purposes of the litigation, which means the tougher standard of proving malice will have to be met. Good luck with that.

Breitbart held a news conference on Pigford scandal last Thursday at CPAC 2011

Interesting is the timing of the thing. The whole kerfuffle blew over months ago, but the suit was served this weekend, a day after Breitbart had presented new videos in the scandal in a big news conference at the CPAC 2011 convention in Washington, D.C. The videos are comprised of multiple interviews which contend the few black farmers who were extant decades ago who were indeed discriminated against by the USDA have NOT been helped by the Pigford settlements. Meanwhile, thousands of “bogus” claimants have surfaced, who, have helped balloon the settlement well over a billion dollars. Of course, trial lawyers, always an important liberal Democrat and Obama constituency, are doing very, very well with Pigford.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is also: involved in exposing Pigford scandal

Here is a bit of Jacobson’s summary of the lawsuit’s claims (be sure to read it all)

The Complaint is 42-pages long, but the legal weakness of the case was given away right in the first paragraph (emphasis and italics in original; underscoring mine):

This is an action brought by Shirley Sherrod, a former Presidential appointee and former Georgia State Director for Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) for defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mrs. Sherrod was forced to resign from her job after Defendants ignited a media firestorm by publishing false and defamatory statements that Mrs. Sherrod “discriminates” against people due to their race in performing her official federal duties. Defendants drew false support for their claims from a speech given by Mrs. Sherrod that they edited, deceptively, to create the appearance that Mrs. Sherrod was admitting present-day racism. In fact, Mrs. Sherrod was describing events that occurred twenty-three years before she held her federal position and, in fact, was encouraging people not to discriminate on the basis of race.

Powerline agrees with Jacobson, as I do, that the “malice” standard is very tough to prove for purposes of an award, and doesn’t seem borne out in the pleadings. It is interesting that Sherrod is trying to claim damages for her firing from the Ag department, which open up a huge bureaucracy to discovery by Breitbart and his attorneys.

The suit is filed in Washington, D.C., which is likely to inspire a venue battle from Breitbart. As for the conservative lion himself, yes hear him ROAR:

Andrew Breitbart said, in response to being sued, “I find it extremely telling that this lawsuit was brought almost seven months after the alleged incidents that caused a national media frenzy occurred. It is no coincidence that this lawsuit was filed one day after I held a press conference revealing audio proof of orchestrated and systemic Pigford fraud. I can promise 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.”

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Mr. Breitbart held a national press conference at which he, Huffington Post blogger Lee Stranahan, and black farmer Eddie Slaughter presented compelling evidence for, and Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA) specifically called for, Congressional investigation into the Pigford case.

Your faithful bloggress was on hand Thursday for the blockbuster Breitbart news conference which expanded the scope and dollar amount of this fraud against deserving black farmers and the American taxpayer. Several of the original black farmer petitioners in the claim, were at the news conference. To be Shirley Sherrod and seeing the vision of the farmers with Breitbart and ALL THAT evidence, had to hurt, eh Shirley?

“At the press conference, Mr. Breitbart revealed two hours of audio of Thomas Burrell, the head of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalist Association, Inc., teaching non-farmers in the South how to commit fraud in the Pigford “back-door” reparations case. This audio conclusively demonstrates how people have conspired to grow the class of Pigford claimants to 94,000, when in fact, there were only about 18,000 black farmers in the entire country during the relevant time period, and when there were never anticipated to be more than a few thousand potential claimants among those 18,000. The numbers just do not and cannot add up.

“I am determined to obtain justice for the truly and legitimately discriminated against American black farmers, who have heretofore been denied justice by the USDA and the Pigford case,” Andrew Breitbart said. “Nothing will deter my efforts to make them whole. I will simultaneously continue to fight relentlessly against the efforts of those who would use these working American farmers to defraudthe American taxpayer to the tune of billions of dollars. This new lawsuit will not stop the American public from finding out what is really going on, who is directly culpable, and the critical role of the Pigford claimant in all off this.”

Sherrod v Breitbart Complaint

Knowing what I do of the legal process to come for a plaintiff like Sherrod, here are some good questions:

Who is funding this opportunistic fraud and her high-powered law firm? This are major fee – frog$$$$.

Does Shirley have any idea at all what door she has now opened? Discovery and depositions are going to start pelting her like Hurricane Katrina in a briefcase. It won’t be request for admissions, it will be an accounting COLONOSCOPY of Shirley, her co-workers, her superiors, and probably her car mechanic. Everyone around her will hate her for the imposition.

Shirley Sherrod has been talked into this lawsuit no doubt, and I believe will lose her taste for all this introspection and scrutiny. Certainly, members of the Obama administration are going to chafe when the subpoenas start heading up stream.

Shirley Sherrod has not opened Pandora’s proverbial box, she invites: a tropical pig manure-storm.

Breitbart’s Pigford archives

UNCOVERAGE.net Pigford archives

Verum Serum: Why the New York Times won’t cover the Pigford scandal

Legal Insurrection’s archives on the matter:

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