In posting an edited video on his website that seemed to show Sherrod talking about neglecting a white farmer, Breitbart misrepresented the facts and directly led to Sherrod losing her job at the USDA. Though Sherrod has received apologies from her ex-boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and from President Obama, she says she doesn't want one from Andrew Breitbart — instead, she said at a National Assn. of Black Journalists convention yesterday, she's planning to take him to court. Unfortunately, she may have a tough time. AOL's Dana Chivvis writes that because Sherrod is a public figure, she'd have to prove that Breitbart had "actual malice" in posting the video — that is, "that Breitbart posted the video knowing it had been edited in such a way as to damage her reputation. Or, she would have to prove that he referred to her story as 'racist' knowing full well that it was not — or that he didn't care either way." Breitbart is sure to fight both claims — he's already said that he received the clip already edited from a source, and that he still believes his post "established the media standard of pointing out that the NAACP countenanced racism in its own award dinner setting."
However, Sherrod also said yesterday that "If the suffering I've endured and the joy I've felt gets that discussion back out there, we've got to deal with it." She was referring to the issue of race in America — but her case could also spur discussion of journalistic ethics. Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent argues that right-wing journalists, in particular, are willing to "actively mislead" audiences to advance their points of view. He writes,
Do some left wing commentators say crazy things? Sure. But high-profile commentators on the left, for instance at networks like MSNBC, inarguably hold themselves to a higher factual standard than Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly.
And, he adds, reporters at left-leaning sites like Talking Points Memo "would never run with a video like the one leaked to Breitbart without making a serious effort to contextualize it and determine its significance and accuracy." Sargent then throws down a challenge: "Do both sides do it? I say No, they don't. And if I ran the show more media folks would step up and take a stand on that question one way or the other." Sherrod's not "media folks," but she's already taken her stand — she said yesterday, "I will not give Fox an interview, period. They had their chance to get the truth, and they were not interested."
Shirley Sherrod Vows To Sue Conservative Blogger Who Misrepresented Her Remarks [LA Times]
Do "Both Sides" Really Do What Breitbart Does? [Washington Post Plum Line Blog]
Shirley Sherrod: 'I Will Not Give Fox An Interview, Period' [Huffington Post]
Why Shirley Sherrod's Case Against Andrew Breitbart Doesn't Look Good [AOL News]
Breitbart On Sherrod's NAACP Speech: 'I Did Not Edit This Thing' [TPMMuckraker]
Breitbart: 'I Am Public Enemy No. 1…' [Politico]