Conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart has received a lot of flak (rightly or wrongly) for posting and promoting a misleading video clip of ousted U.S.D.A. official Shirley Sherrod, but he may have opened himself up to more than just criticism. Sherrod says Breitbart was carelessly "willing to destroy" her, and she is considering suing him for defamation. Would she have a case? (Watch Sherrod say she's considering legal action)
Sherrod doesn't have a slam-dunk case: Sherrod can file suit against Breitbart, and "the most obvious claims would be false light and defamation," says law professor Jonathan Turley in his blog. But the tricky part would be to prove that Breitbart knew he was purposefully misrepresenting her speech, or that defaming her was the point of the clip.
"Can Sherrod sue over edited NAACP tape?"
Sue, Shirley, sue: This could be "the perfect test case" for defamation law, says Michael Yaki in the San Francisco Chronicle, and the law "clearly puts Breitbart in a tough position." But Sherrod should sue him regardless, to make an example of Breitbart and his ilk's malicious tactics. "The only way to treat a bully is a swift punch to the nose, and there's nothing like a million-dollar libel suit to bloody someone up."
"Shirley Sherrod: Sue Breitbart and Fox News"
A lawsuit isn't the answer: "For those eager to see Sherrod get her pound of flesh," says David Kurtz in Talking Points Memo, I'd remind them that "there is no such thing as a slam-dunk defamation claim." The bigger point, though, is that "a lawsuit is a terrible, awful, no-good way to resolve almost any dispute," and "that is doubly true of libel suits."
"Sherrod: I really think I should sue"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Capitalism isn't a cure-all for Cuba
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
Subscribe to the Week