WASHINGTON (CN) - Former U.S Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod's lawsuit against right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart survived a motion to dismiss, clearing the way for her to pursue the high-profile defamation suit she filed against him and a colleague last year.
Sherrod Sued Breitbart and associate Larry O'Connor in February 2011, charging the two men posted a heavily editor clip of her online that led to accusations of racism and ultimately got her fired.
Breitbert filed his motion under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act, which provides that if a defendant can show the claim at issue arises from an act in furtherance of the right to free speech - and if the it is also related to an issue of public concern-he can file a special motion to dismiss.
But in a terse decision, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon tossed the motion, pointing out that the D.C. law that the motion was based on did not take affect until more than a month after Sherrod filed her defamation suit.
Sherrod sued Breitbart, Larry O'Connor and a third, unidentified individual in 2011 for allegedly editing down her 43-minute speech at the March 2010 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet into a 2 minute 36-second clip meant to mislead the public into believing that Sherrod gave preferential treatment to black farmers in doling out federal funds.
The short video, in which Sherrod spoke of her own feelings about helping a poor white farmer, went viral and within days had her pulling her car over at the behest of the White House to "email her resignation from her blackberry," claimed Sherrod in her federal complaint.
Breitbart published "an inflammatory and highly damaging blog post" in July 2010, with the doctored clip of the speech along with "five introductory slides containing false statements of fact regarding Mrs. Sherrod," according to Sherrod's complaint.
Only a day after the White House forced her resignation, the complete video of her speech surfaced, prompting apologies from President Obama and from Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly who said, "So I owe Mrs. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context," Sherrod said. Judge Leon held that Breitbart's motion to dismiss, filed April 18, 2011, was filed two weeks after the deadline to file the special motion, and allowed Sherrod's case to proceed.