If you’re a dedicated politico or a devoted reader of Law Law Land, you’ll remember the saga of Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official who was unceremoniously fired by the Obama administration in July 2010 after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted an incendiary video to his site in which the African-American Sherrod seemingly confessed to discriminating against a farmer because he was white. Within days, it emerged that Breitbart had actually selectively edited down a longer video, in which Sherrod’s “confession” set up a broader lesson about personal and racial reconciliation, with Sherrod eventually befriending the farmer and saving his farm. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack promptly offered Sherrod her job back, while the NAACP — which had initially publicly condemned Sherrod — quickly released a statement saying it had been “snookered.” But the damage was done, and Sherrod declined to return to the USDA.
At the time, pundits seemed to treat an eventual lawsuit from Sherrod as an inevitability. Liberal bloggers released reports suggesting that a lawsuit was basically imminent, while conservative legal commentators quickly explained why they thought that seemingly imminent lawsuit would fail. And then, of course, nothing happened. But no longer.
This weekend, while attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Breitbart was served with a lawsuit from Sherrod, bringing claims for defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. If you’re interested, you can check out the complaint — which, interestingly, does not name as a defendant Fox News, which initially picked up Breitbart’s blog post and fanned the flames of the incipient firestorm of controversy.
But more importantly, you can remind yourself why our own Rachel Valadez argued that, even if the legal road ahead of her would prove long and challenging, even Tea Partiers should want Sherrod to sue…and win.