Sherrod says she might sue Breitbart, who’s “one person I’d like to get back at, because he came at me”
Former Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, who was fired this week after conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip which had been heavily edited to show her allegedly expressing racist sentiments, acknowledged on Thursday that she feels some resentment for what she has gone through.
“It’s hard to take a person like him,” Sherrod remarked. “It’s hard for me to understand a person like him. And it’s hard for me to understand what is his purpose, what is he trying to do, really?”
“He could easily make a decision to destroy me” she continued, “but in destroying me, what else is he trying to do?”
“Would you consider a defamation suit against Andrew Breitbart?” CNN’s Kiran Chetry asked.
“I really think I should, Sherrod replied. “I don’t know a lot about the legal profession, but that’s one person I’d like to get back at, because he came at me. … An apology at this point — and he hasn’t made that — is just not enough for me.”
“Would you like his site to be shut down?” Chetry continued.
“That would be a great thing,” replied Sherrod. “I don’t see how that [site] helps us at a time when we … should be looking at how we can make space for all of us in this country so that we could all live and work together. He’s doing more to divide us.”
Sherrod scoffed at Breitbart’s claim that he had only targeted her to discredit the NAACP, and an article by Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo suggests another possible motivation.
“Andrew Breitbart’s timing of the release of the grossly distorted video of Sherrod, which he admits having had for weeks, may not be entirely random.,” Slajda wrote on Thursday. “Congress will soon vote on whether to fund part of a settlement between the USDA and African-American farmers who faced acknowledged discrimination — farmers like Sherrod and her husband used to be.”
“The USDA settlements with African-American farmers are a longtime bÃƒÂªte noire of the right, which they deem a giveaway to a core Democratic constituency,” Slajda continued. “It’s not clear whether Breitbart’s release of the video was specifically intended to hurt the chances of other African-America farmers to receive recompense from decades of discrimination that caused them to lose their farms, but conservatives immediately used the video to attack the settlement. The discrimination claims, known globally as the Pigford settlement, is the elephant in the room”
Sherrod and her husband are reportedly among the claimants in that discrimination case. A community farm that they established in Georgia was foreclosed upon in 1985, after they were denied an emergency loan of a kind that was regularly granted to white farmers.
The loss of that farm provides the background for Shirley Sherrod’s brief hesitation over helping a white farmer keep his own farm the following year. And, according to Sladja, it may also explain why “conservatives immediately jumped on the Sherrod video … to condemn the Pigford case.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tweeted as soon as the Sherrod story came out that “billion$ of Pigford Farms is fraud,” and the Washington Times suggested that Sherrod’s involvement in the case might have created “sanctioned conflicts of interest.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, however, appears to see Sherrod’s involvement in the Pigford case as a recommendation. He has offered her a new job in the department to deal with civil rights issues, but Sherrod isn’t sure she wants to be in that position.
“I would not like to be the one person that this country is looking at to solve all of the problems of discrimination within the Department of Agriculture,” she told CBS’s Erica Hill. “They have been going on for years. … There are many, many, many layers of issues there, and I don’t know that the department is ready to deal with them.”
This video is from CBS’ Early Show, broadcast July 22, 2010.
This video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast July 22, 2010.