Albany’s Shirley Sherrod, who recently sued the conservative blogger whose craftily edited video resulted in Sherrod’s ouster from her U.S. Department of Agriculture post amid allegations of racism, will speak at a March 25 fund-raiser for the Albany Civil Rights Institute.
Sherrod will be joined by her husband, Albany civil rights icon Charles Sherrod, as part of the monthly Community Night series hosted at the museum, 326 Whitney Ave. The public is invited; tickets are $25.
Sherrod has filed suit in District of Columbia Superior Court, accusing Andrew Breitbart of “defamation, false light and infliction of emotional distress.” On Friday, Breitbart asked that the court be transferred to U.S. District Court.
Sherrod resigned as Georgia’s director of rural development in July 2010 after edited video footage of a speech she gave was posted by Breitbart on BigGovernment.com. Sherrod is black and Breitbart is white. In the speech, Sherrod spoke of not offering her full help to a white farmer in 1986, but the full video shows that Sherrod was making a point that she has moved beyond racial motivation in her advocacy work.
Breitbart says it’s “no coincidence” that Sherrod filed suit a day after he called for a congressional investigation into the settlement of Pigford v. Glickman, a 1997 case that resulted in the U.S. Senate approving $1.15 billion in payments to farmers victimized by racial bias.
Sherrod is represented by powerhouse Washington, D.C., corporate attorney Tom Clare. The suit names Breitbart, producer Larry O’Connor and an unknown “John Doe,” who, according to the lawsuit, “was involved in the deceptive editing of the video clip and encouraged its publication with the intent to defame Mrs. Sherrod.”
In the video clip, Sherrod told her audience that a white farmer she was working with “took a long time … trying to show me he was superior to me.” As a result, she said, she “didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough” by taking him to a white lawyer because “I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.”
The white farmer, Roger Spooner, later said Sherrod’s efforts were beneficial by helping him save his family’s farm. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized to Sherrod and offered to rehire her, but she declined.
In addition to litigation matters, Clare has extensive experience in matters involving the publication of false statements in print, broadcast, and online media outlets. He represented Chiquita Brands International during a year-long investigative reporting project by The Cincinnati Enquirer, developing evidence of wiretapping and theft of Chiquita voicemail messages by a reporter and obtained a highly publicized front-page apology, retraction and cash settlement in excess of $10 million.
He also represented three former U.S. House of Representatives members, Madison Square Garden and Ford Motor Co. is matters involving reporting of false statements.
Sherrod argues that the D.C. Superior Court is the proper venue because major events at issue took place in the District. In his petition, Breitbart’s attorney, Eric Kuwana, claims that because Sherrod is seeking damages that will likely exceed $75,000 and all of the parties live outside of the District, the case should be handled in federal court.
The Sherrods’ March 25 presentation will be moderated by April Ryan, a “Washington Watch” commentator for TV One, a co-sponsor of the event along with Mediacom. Tickets are on the sale and at the Albany Welcome Center.
For information about the Sherrods’ presentation, which begins at 7:30 p.m. following a 6 p.m. reception, call the museum at 432-1698.