ALBANY, Ga. -- Shirley Sherrod, ousted from her position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after an internet video produced by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart surfaced, has filed suit in District of Columbia Superior Court alleging defamation, false light and infliction of emotional distress.
Reached Monday afternoon for comment, Sherrod declined to answer questions or make a statement, instead referring all inquiries to her attorney, Tom Clare of Washington, D.C.
"This lawsuit is not about politics or race," Mrs. Sherrod said in the statement released by Clare. "It is not about right versus left, the NAACP or the tea party. It is about how quickly, in today's Internet media environment, a person's good name can become 'collateral damage' in an overheated political debate. I strongly believe in a free press and a full discussion of public issues, but not in deliberate distortions of the truth."
Breitbart confirmed that his company, breitbart.com, LLC, had been served with a copy of the suit over the weekend. In addition to Breitbart, producer Larry O'Conner and an unknown 'John Doe' are also named in the suit.
Sherrod resigned as Georgia's Director of Rural Development after the video clip appeared last July. The edited clip showed a speech she gave at an NAACP function where Sherrod spoke of not offering her full help and support to a white farmer, Roger Spooner, in 1986.
The full unedited video, however, showed Sherrod talking about assisting Spooner and moving beyond race in her life and professional responsibilities.
The suit alleges that "Mrs. Sherrod was forced to resign her job after Defendants ignited a media firestorm by publishing false and defamatory statements that Mrs. Sherrod 'discriminates' against people due to their race in performing her official duties.
"Defendants drew false support for their claims from a speech given by Mrs. Sherrod that they edited, deceptively, to create the appearance that Mrs. Sherrod was admitting present-day racism."
Breitbart quickly fired back.
"I find it extremely telling that this lawsuit was brought almost seven months after the alleged incidents that caused a national media frenzy occurred." Breitbart said. "It is no coincidence that this lawsuit was filed one day after I held a press conference revealing audio proof of orchestrated and systemic Pigford fraud. I can promise you this: neither I, nor my journalistic websites, will or can be silenced by the institutional Left, which is obviously funding this lawsuit. I welcome the judicial discovery process, including finding out which groups are doing so."
Pigford is the $1.5 billion settlement agreed to by the USDA and was intended to assure restitution to black farmers who were victims of racial discrimination. Sherrod and her husband, Charles, were the largest single recipients of Pigford money, each receiving $150,000 for pain and suffering and $13 million paid to defunct collective farm New Communities of Southwest Georgia in 2009."
"Shirley Sherrod is up to her eyeballs in Pigford. She is a central figure in the whole thing," Breitbart, who contends Pigford is rife with fraud, said. "She was the largest single recipient in the settlement and she was deeply involved in oversight through the monitor's office.
Any place a black farmer went to get help on Pigford, Shirley Sherrod was there.
"This is a last ditch effort to try and intimidate me. But it's not going to work."
Brietbart added that he is absolutely confident of being fully vindicated.