In the aftermath of the saga that thrust Shirley Sherrod into the news cycle and spurred a national discussion about race, the former USDA employee has said she “definitely will sue” Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger at BigGovernment.com who posted the original edited video. Breitbart talked with NEWSWEEK’s Daniel Stone about the whole episode, a potential lawsuit and whether he has any regrets. Excerpts:
Shirley Sherrod has said she will sue you. What’s your response?
I’m not going to respond to the lawsuit. She mentioned it last week, when it fueled 36 hours of coverage, and then again this week, when it fueled another round of coverage. Until there’s a lawsuit, unless there’s something to answer to, there’s nothing I can comment on.
If it came to pass, would you settle or fight it?
If there’s a lawsuit, there will be a legal team.
She said she simply wanted an apology. Why not just do it?
All I can say is that this is a person on national television who said I wanted to put blacks back into slavery. This thing has gotten to a place that’s far beyond where it should be. I’d be more than happy to meet with her in private and have a discussion with her.
Is that an invitation?
Sure, I’ll go wherever she wants. I’ll go to Albany, Ga. I’ll go anywhere to have a private discussion with her.
How do you think this got so out of control?
At the beginning, Shirley Sherrod’s first comments were that she got caught between the NAACP and the Tea Party and she said that the NAACP is the reason for this. That’s her quote. The intent of my post was to challenge the NAACP in its six-day media-enabled negative branding of the Tea Party as racist using provably false information that the N word was thrown at the Congressional Black Caucus [earlier this year during the health-care debate]. I’ve been doing this for over a year, and this is just one more attempt of mine to point out to the general public that there’s consistency here in the Democratic Party to strategically issue the race card. My regret was that has been lost, and Shirley Sherrod became the focus.
If Sherrod wanted to meet with you, what would you tell her?
I’d have a long discussion with her, and I’d tell her that I’m not one of these people in this country that thinks racism doesn’t exist. And that I’m not one of these people who says that she hasn’t suffered from racism. And that the scars of her racism aren’t warranted. But I’d also tell her that my passion in life and my political trajectory from left to right was born from watching the Clarence Thomas hearings. I didn’t understand how the NAACP sat on its hands while privileged white gentlemen hammered him mercilessly and humiliated him and the media and the NAACP allowed for it to happen.
What do you say to people who call you a racist?
I’ll tell them that this weekend I’m going to the Uni-Tea minority-based Tea Party in what was a preplanned event long before this. I’m going to tell the crowd that their investment in the American experiment of limited government and individual rights, that their stance on those worthwhile ideals is going to save this country. I have no bigger goal than to eradicate racism, to grant Americans who have a different color of skin the right to disagree against the left’s style of orthodoxy.
So your broader effort is to tap the minority vote that historically has been helpful to Democrats?
Yes. It may be a task that’s so Herculean, but I think it’s a worthy goal to try to open up America to individuals who just so happen to have a different skin color, that they have every right and every freedom to think what they want to think. That’s my battle, it’s my goal.
Can you understand how this has been difficult for her to get caught up in that?
As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well, especially to hear her hurl an accusation of racism at me, when my motivation is absolutely pure and is driven by a desire for this country to move beyond its horrid racist past.
Do you agree that the edited video took things out of context?
Well, yes. But I put up what I had. It granted a great portion of her redemptive tale, but not all of it. If I could do it all over again, I should have waited for the full video to get to me.
So why not apologize for that?
I’d first like to speak to her in private and outside of the media circus.
Do you regret how this all went down?
Look, there’s a lot of blame to go around on this story, and it’s very convenient to try to place it all on me when the Obama administration and the NAACP were also involved. I don’t think anybody looks particularly good in this thing.