In order to prevail, she will have to prove that Breitbart acted with actual malice. This standard requires that Sherrod prove that Breitbart published information about her that he knew was false or that he acted with reckless disregard for the truth. Although this is normally a tough standard, Sherrod might prevail, given the circumstances of the scandal. It will be difficult, however, given the First Amendment interests at stake.Sherrod probably has an even stronger lawsuit against the government. USDA officials forced her out of her government job without due process of law. She was not given the opportunity to explain herself, nor did her supervisors listen to the full speech before demanding her resignation.
I'd love to hear from the lawyer's in the room on this.
I'm divided--I think the USDA's conduct was disgusting. It strikes me as having real implications for workers who aren't lucky enough to have the kind of resources (media coverage, farmer exonerating her, unedited tape etc.) to which Sherrod had access. But I would like to know who Breitbart's source was. Accepting Breitbart's explanation (and I'm not sure I do,) it strikes me as a "reckless disregard for the truth" to not even view the full tape.
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