Judge allows defamation suit against Breitbart to proceed

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:06 EDT
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A district judge in Washington, D.C. ruled Thursday that a defamation lawsuit against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart may proceed to trial, according to Legal Times reporter Zoe Tillman.

The suit, filed by former U.S. Dept. of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, had faced a motion to dismiss or relocate, which was struck down.

Judge Richard Leon did not issue a written opinion on the case.

Last year, Breitbart published a video of Sherrod describing to an NAACP conference how she overcame her own racist attitudes. However, a video from that speech was deceptively edited to make it appear that she was describing how she used the power of the government against a white farmer.

She was fired from her post at the agriculture department within hours of the clip hitting Breitbart’s website, and for at least a day the world believed Sherrod was a racist who abused her power to harm a white farmer.

Once it became clear that was not the case, the government offered her the job back, but she declined. Even after a formal apology from the White House and an offer to talk to the president, Sherrod still refused.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took it a step further and offered her a position dealing with civil rights and discrimination issues at the USDA, but Sherrod declined and vowed to sue Breitbart over his deceptive prank.

The suit also targets Breitbart colleague Larry O’Connor and one other unnamed defendant.

Lawyers for the defense argued that the suit was invalid because it was triggered by a matter of “pure opinion,” not statements of fact.

Image credit: Flickr commons.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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