HOUSTON, TEXAS — Andrew Breitbart says he still stands by everything he’s said about Shirley Sherrod, the former U.S.D.A. official who filed a lawsuit against him charging he defamed her by “publishing an intentionally false and misleading clip” that damaged her reputation.In an interview with TPM following his speech before the True the Vote national summit on Saturday, Breitbart said that the Sherrod story — in which Breitbart’s Big Government website posted what turned out to be a selectively edited video clip of Sherrod that made it appear as though she was bragging about discriminating against a white farmer — has always been about the Pigford settlement, even if he didn’t realize it in the beginning.
“I still stand by everything I said in the past as it relates to that story,” Breitbart said. “I’m excited for the discovery phase of this. I wasn’t intimidated by her saying … her slander saying that I want to, you know, bring blacks to slavery. What a predictable methodology of attack by the left. You know everyone is worried about slander — what she said to me is slanderous.”
“This is about Pigford. It has always been about Pigford. The court case will prove this beyond a reasonable doubt,” Breitbart said.
Breitbart said that the Pigford II settlement — which offers $50,000 to those black farmers who say they were discriminated against by the government — has been “sold in the black churches as reparations and sold at reparations conventions by the proponents of it as reparations.” (Breitbart held a press conference at the Conservative Political Action Conference and released audio from an event they say shows just that.)
“Shirley Sherrod’s attorney is one of the primary proponents of reparations in this country,” Breitbart said. (Late Update: Breitbart tells TPM he was referring to Sherrod’s lawyer in the Pigford case, Rose Sanders, and not her lawyer in the libel suit as I originally believed. Sanders was the founder of the Slavery-Civil War Museum, National Voting Rights Museum and was a member of the Reparations Coordinating Committee).
“I don’t think Barack Obama wanted the Shirley Sherrod narrative and Pigford in the news,” Breitbart said.
When the Sherrod story came out, Breitbart said he “had never heard of Pigford, and I have the Nation editor saying that I am to blame for the money being pulled out, and I have Lawrence O’Donnell warning that the money is going to be pulled out the same week as Sherrod.”
“I’m the one that’s being told that it’s Pigford by the progressive media, so when I do basic investigation and find out Ms. Sherrod’s monumental conflict of interest of working for the Pigford monitor when she’s now overseeing the Pigford distributions and who gets them and who doesn’t,” Breitbart said.
“I don’t doubt — I have zero doubt — that many of these local offices of the USDA are rancid racists who treated the black farmers wrong, and that the black farmers themselves should have not just gotten their land back or kept their farms, I think that they should have made millions of dollars each if they could prove that they were discriminated against,” Breitbart said. “But they weren’t just screwed over by the USDA, they were screwed over by Pigford” and the lawyer who made it into a class-action lawsuit.
That lawyer, Al Pires was recently interviewed for a Fox News segment by John Stossel, where a black farmer who was discriminated said that lawyers encouraged African-Americans to commit fraud by claiming they attempted to farm.
“They ended up creating a spigot for their neighbors who have never farmed before, who would simply have to state that they, wink, ‘attempted to farm’,” Breitbart said.
“All of the organizers on behalf of Pigford, in order to justify telling a mechanic or a pizza delivery guy or a lawyer, to get a $50,000 check when they never farmed before or attempted to farm before is to tell them in so many words that you deserve this, because this is backdoor reparations,” Breitbart said.
When I asked about allegations of fraud in the Pigford case at a press conference in December, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the fraud concern was “legitimate” but that it shouldn’t be lost that the settlement “addressed a historical wrong.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the process for approving the payouts in the Pigford case would include the U.S.D.A. inspector general and the comptroller general. He said that lawyers will have to certify under the penalty of perjury that what they are representing on behalf of their clients is true and accurate.
“I think there are significant safeguards that have been placed in the settlement process in addition to those that would occur just generally, which is a review by an independent arbitrator and adjudicator,” Vilsack said at the time.
But Breitbart told me there’s much more to come in the Pigford story, and he’s working with reporter Lee Stranahan on a documentary that will show just how much corruption there’s been in the Pigford settlement.
As for the Sherrod lawsuit, there’s a hearing set for April 7, and a reply from lawyers for Brietbart and his co-defendant Larry O’Connor (the head of Breitbart.tv) are due by April 11.