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Last summer, United States Department of Agriculture
official Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign after conservative
Breitbart posted online a speech that she had made 23 years before, when
she worked for a nonprofit organization. The video that Breitbart posted
supposedly showed that Sherrod, who is African American, had engaged in racial
discrimination against a white farmer who needed financial assistance. It
soon emerged, however, that the video clip that Breitbart placed online was
significantly edited, and that in full context, Sherrod emerged as a supporter
of equal opportunity rather than as a racist. After all that background was
revealed, President Obama took the unusual step of formally and publicly
apologizing to her. She was offered her job back, but she declined the offer.
Instead, she hired a team of preeminent defamation attorneys to take Mr.
Breitbart to court.
On February 11, 2011, Sherrod filed a defamation suit in D.C. Superior Court
against Breitbart and two alleged accomplices, alleging that the depiction of
her as a racist had caused her financial losses, physical symptoms, and
"irreparable reputation and career damage." Sherrod is seeking
compensatory and punitive damages as well as a court order that Breitbart
remove the offending material from his blog. Breitbart has not yet formally responded to the
lawsuit, but he did say in a statement that he "categorically rejects the
transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech."
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