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Shirley Sherrod Files Suit Against Andrew Breitbart

Shirley Sherrod, Tom Vilsack
Forner Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod, left, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaks during a news conference at the Agriculture Department in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Shirley Sherrod, a former employee of the U.S. Agriculture Department, is suing conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart for posting a video online that she says damaged her reputation and forced her out of her job.

According to the New York Times, Breitbart was served with the lawsuit on Saturday, while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Sherrod, who formerly served as Georgia Director of Rural Development for the USDA, was pressured to resign last July after Breitbart posted an edited video of her online. She argues that the video was edited to make her appear racist.

In the edited video, Sherrod tells the story of an incident in which she declined to help a white farmer to the full extent of her ability because of his race. In the full-length version, which surfaced only after Sherrod had resigned from the USDA, it becomes clear that the story was part of a larger anecdote about Sherrod's own experience overcoming racial prejudices. Sherrod not only went back and helped the white farmer, but formed a long-lasting friendship with him.

The White House later apologized to Sherrod for the handling of the incident, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked her to return to the USDA. (Sherrod declined the offer.)

On Monday, the former USDA employee said she was "still reeling" from the incident and said it had prevented her from finding further work.

"I'm not employed and no one's offered me a job anywhere, so I don't know where to look at this point,'' she told the Associated Press in an interview. "I'm just trying to survive.''

In a statement posted on his website,, Breitbart said that he "categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech." He also suggested that the timing of the lawsuit was politically motivated.

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