More than five years later, it looks like Shirley Sherrod may get some satisfaction from her tormentors at Breitbart News. Politico is reporting that the parties are nearing a settlement in Sherrod's libel suit against Breitbart News for their deceptively edited video which ultimately cost Sherrod her job.
The former Agriculture Department official fired from her job by the Obama administration in 2010 after conservative writer Andrew Breitbart's website accused her of racism has agreed "in principle" to settle her libel claim against Breitbart's estate and one of his business partners, according to a court filing.
Shirley Sherrod sued Breitbart and partner Larry O'Connor in 2011, claiming that they defamed her by publishing an edited version of a speech she gave to an NAACP chapter. Sherrod, who is African-American, said the clips made her sound like she was advocating denying services to white farmers when in fact she was making the opposite point.
As the video clips spread through conservative media outlets, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack quickly fired Sherrod. However, in an awkward reversal, he apologized and offered to rehire her a day later after the full extent of Sherrod's remarks began to circulate. Sherrod declined the offer.
Sherrod never sued the federal government over the episode, but her suit against Breitbart and O'Connor faced a series of pitfalls and legal tangles. Breitbart died unexpectedly in 2012 and his wife was substituted as a defendant, although her liability was the subject of dispute. The case spent a couple years on hold while courts addressed application of a D.C. law limiting certain kinds of lawsuits related to public speech.
The lawsuit also spawned demands for testimony from Vilsack about precisely why he was so hasty in firing Sherrod. The defendants said they suspected he feared the controversy would derail a massive financial settlement between the federal government and black farmers. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered Vilsack to testify at a deposition, but a federal appeals court overturned that order.
Now, all sides say they've reached a tentative deal to resolve the case. "The parties have reached a confidential agreement in principle to resolve this matter and are working in good faith to formalize the remaining details," lawyers said in a filing Tuesday evening asking to postpone a hearing scheduled for Thursday.↓ Story continues below ↓
Mark Bailen, an attorney for O'Connor, declined to comment on the development, as did Sherrod attorney Beth Williams. Two lawyers for Susannah Breitbart, Reed Herbst and Eric Dubelier, did not respond to messages seeking comment for this post.
I hope the settlement is a nice, fat juicy one that involves not only money, but some kind of public statement from Breitbart admitting their perfidy.