29 July 2011

federal judge richard leon: shirley sherrod defamation suit against andrew breitbart can proceed

via: twitter @thedeadpelican

375 days ago, on monday, 19 july 2010, when the whole shirley sherrod controversy broke we were somewhat suspicious of it due to the way that it was broken and promoted.

matt drudge protege andrew breitbart posted an excerpt of a video of a speech given by ms. sherrod on 27 march 2010 to the local coffee (or dekalb) county, georgia, naacp chapter's 20th annual freedom fund banquet.

drudge and breitbart are both trouble makers. drudge reviles in it and breitbart already had a reputation for being less than truthful in and manipulative with his blog postings.

drudgereportarchives.com recount how it all started that day when cbs new york posted a story captioned:

"SHOCK: Video Suggests Racism At NAACP Event
Official At Freedom Fund Banquet Says Racial Considerations
Would Be Factor For How Much Help Afforded."

at his 1628 update, drudge promptly linked to it. the link from the drudge report to cbs new york is now broken as the story was removed from their website.

however, someone on a corvette forum had the presence of mind to start a thread to preserve it for us here.

drudge updated his site six more times and on the seventh update at 1723, nearly an hour later, he finally added the link directly to the breitbart.tv website.

until today we had never watched either the 2:36 sherrod clip at breitbart.tv or the 43:15 full video of ms. sherrod's speech that was uploaded to youtube the next day on 20 july 2010.

back then the early media reports and blogosphere buzz left us with the impression that the meeting was some sort of racist black people gathering where they were doing a lot of shucking n' jiving and mooning and cooning about getting whitey.

in the scheme of things we didnt find this particularly provocative or even offensive. we just assumed that ms. sherrod was a city girl. maybe even one of those mysterious "chicago gangsters" that president obama brought in with him.

what pissed us off though was the thought that any black person working in the farming industry could possibly be prejudiced for no reason against a farmer when farming is about the most honest, respectable profession that a person could have.

and especially in light of all the scientific advances made for and given to all farmers by george washington carver.

now here was a man who was born a slave and although he had the love and support of his slave owner family and their neighbors yet obviously still facing extremely long odds went on to cultivate his god-given talent in the areas of botany, agriculture and farming into one of the most accomplished scientists and greatest minds that america has ever produced.

so how could anyone working in farming and agriculture perhaps even especially a black person do anything to besmirch dr. carver's legacy?

anyway, we remembered reading back then that ms. sherrod promised to sue andrew breitbart for defamation but we havent paid any more attention to or given this mess much more thought other than the few days last summer when it was all the rage.

then, last night, chad over at the dead pelican tweeted out a link to a news story about how the judge had denied breitbart's motion to dismiss. chad included in his tweet words to the effect that he thinks that ms. sherrod is a public figure.

so today we made it a point to go back and look at the clips and see what all the controversy is about.

first we found the edited clip that breitbart promoted. its 2 minutes and 36 seconds long. ms. sherrod talks for 1 minute and 43 seconds, the rest of the time the video is laden with textual and video propaganda attempting to reinforce the meme of "video proof: the naacp awards racism."

next we found and watched the "complete" video of ms. sherrod's speech. its 43 minutes and 15 seconds in length and there is nothing racist or offensive about it. in fact we would go so far to say that its a touching speech.. uplifting even.

there is simply nothing in this speech that justifies, contextually, morally or politically, ripping a tiny fraction of a 40+ minute speech and recasting it as proof of racism.

then we reread, for the umpteenth time, Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U. S. 130 (1967), that's the 1967 supreme court opinion that established in defamation cases the "public figure" theory.

ms. sherrod is probably a public figure now. however, we dont believe that she was a public figure on 27 march 2010 or on 19 july 2010.

rather, we believe that she was just a higher-level government bureaucrat going about her duties. one of which was to meet people and make speeches whether its a chamber of commerce, rotary club, kiwanis or in this case the naacp.

and if she gets a jury trial all her lawyers have to do is play the the edited clip vs the full speech and breitbart is going to lose.

so breitbart's people need to get with ms. sherrod's people and settle this complaint before it becomes a horrible precedent that the rest of us will have to live with.