WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2015 -- Shirley Sherrod has settled her four-year-old lawsuit against the estate of the late Andrew Breitbart for publishing false allegations that as an administrator at USDA in 2010, the African American woman discriminated against a white farmer.
In a joint statement, Sherrod, Breitbart’s estate, and Larry O’Connor, head of Breatbart.tv at the time, said the parties agreed to resolve the lawsuit on confidential terms. Breitbart died in 2012.The lawsuit grew out of a blog post and video excerpts from a speech that Sherrod, who was then USDA’s Georgia director for Rural Development, gave to an NAACP audience on March 27, 2010. In the speech she described struggling to help a white farmer because of the way blacks had been treated.
“So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do,” she said in the clip.
In Brietbart’s blog, the story appeared under the headline, “Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism-2010," wrongly suggested that Sherrod had been talking about her behavior as a federal official. The big problem was that Sherrod had been talking about an incident that had occurred years earlier in which she had indeed provided assistance to the farmer, who was faced with losing his farm. Sherrod had actually been talking about her own journey to overcome prejudices, which was clear in the full video.
Before the truth came out, Sherrod was swiftly forced to resign from USDA, and the NAACP condemned her on the basis of the edited version of the remarks. Once a full version of the speech surfaced, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the White House apologized to Sherrod, who was also offered a position back at the USDA, which she rejected.
“Communications between the USDA and the White House disclosed in the course of the lawsuit suggest that the administration acted too hastily to cut ties with her,” the joint statement reads.
The statement also points out that prior to his death, Breitbart told Newsweek magazine that he regretted that Sherrod became the focus of what was mean to be a “political commentary” about the Tea Party and the NCAAP.
The parties said they regret the harm that Sherrod suffered, and that they agreed to resolve the lawsuit on confidential terms, “in a gesture they hope will inspire others to engage in the difficult but critically important process of bridging racial divides.”
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