Imagine if the conservative media had to include every fact that makes liberals look good in every story that makes liberals look bad. What if attorney-client privilege didn’t exist for lawyers providing advice to conservative publications? Imagine if those contacted by a conservative journalist were dragged into depositions by a liberal plaintiff. Imagine if the liberal plaintiff subpoenaed writers for conservative publications who covered her case.
These actions would be a way to silence and chill the increasingly powerful conservative media, and it’s exactly what is happening in former Obama political appointee Shirley Sherrod’s lawsuit against Andrew Brietbart’s widow and radio talk show host Larry O’Connor.
Last week I was forced to give a deposition in Shirley Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart’s widow. The deposition took place at Kirkland and Ellis’s posh “litigation center” in Washington, D.C. The drink selection at the litigation center was expansive.
Shirley Sherrod is the former Department of Agriculture official who said on camera that she once wanted to deny benefits to a white farmer because of his race. After that doozy, Sherrod said she later decided that race shouldn’t be a factor in giving out benefits. When Sherrod said that she intended to deny benefits to a white farmer, folks in the NAACP audience laughed.
One of the topics Shirley Sherrod’s lawyers wanted to know about in my deposition is who controls the comments to articles here at PJ Media.
Sherrod’s lawsuit is premised on a dangerous idea: when conservatives speak about liberals, they shouldn’t be allowed to quote the liberal saying disgraceful things unless they quote the liberal also saying nice things. Supposedly, Andrew Breitbart’s Breitbart.com didn’t publish enough of the nice things Sherrod said, and thus Sherrod sued Andrew and Larry O’Connor (a Brietbart.com editor).
Let’s call it the not-enough-nice-context theory of defamation. They don’t teach it in law school, yet.
Sherrod’s defamation theory is dangerous to the free press. When Sherrod said that she intended to discriminate against white farmers, that was a stand-alone story, period. Nothing else that followed mattered. It showed that no race is free from bad actors, white or black.
The stand-alone story of black on white discrimination runs counter to the well-worn critical race theory dogma that some are incapable of racialism or racism.
Sherrod’s defenders falsely claim the video Andrew Breitbart aired was “heavily edited.” What they really mean is that video of Sherrod saying things that make her look good wasn’t aired alongside video that made Sherrod look bad.
The reaction of some in the NAACP audience to Sherrod’s comment that she intended to discriminate against a white farmer is another stand-alone story. Instead of gasps of moral shock, the video reveals laughter. It’s a story worth telling regardless of Sherrod’s subsequent racial redemption.
But it’s not a story those who support the NAACP want to have told. Andrew Brietbart wanted it to be told. Andrew said that the Sherrod story was, in part, about the NAACP needing to clean up disorder in the NAACP house before they accused the Tea Party of racism.
It is true that Sherrod’s story is also a story of redemption. Later in the video, Sherrod said that she realized that race shouldn’t be a factor in providing benefits.
Great. But that’s the postscript after her big racialist reveal. When and where the story of redemption is placed is the central question behind the Sherrod defamation lawsuit.