Andrew Breitbart has claimed to have spent months investigating possible fraud in the Pigford litigation, a discrimination case brought by black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet, despite repeatedly making wild allegations of nefarious activities surrounding Pigford, the Obama administration, Breitbart victim Shirley Sherrod and others, Breitbart made clear today that he has no clue about the Pigford litigation.
In a press conference at CPAC today on Pigford, Breitbart attempted to describe the Pigford litigation. He said:
BREITBART: What we were able to find out from Pigford is that it's majority fraud. What we were able to find out with Pigford is that the class action attorney, the lead class counsel, Al Pires used the black farmers in order to create this lawsuit. They were basically a Trojan Horse. And at the last second, without consulting with the black farmers, he created a two-track system. Track A was for attempted-to-farmers. Track B, if you dared take that, if you were an actual black farmer, the chances were that you would lose.
Breitbart's description of Track A and Track B is just plain wrong. The consent decree that settled in the case in 1999 requires claimants to show, among other things that they “farmed, or attempted to farm, between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1996.” It then gives the claimants the option of choosing “Track A” and “Track B.”
Track A was for claimants who did not think they could (or did not want to risk trying) to prove they were discriminated against by the Agriculture Department through the traditional standard of proof -- which requires showing that it was more likely than not that discrimination occurred. It was not restricted to those who only attempted to farm. If they produced substantial evidence of their claim that they farmed or attempted to farm, were discriminated against, and complained of the discrimination, they could get $50,000. As the consent decree makes clear, Track A is open to both people who farmed and people who attempted to farm.
Track B was for people who thought they could prove their discrimination claim through the traditional standard of proof.
Only 170 people chose Track B in the initial Pigford litigation. This is not surprising, since the decision by the Reagan administration to essentially dismantle its USDA anti-discrimination office but still tell black farmers to file discrimination claims with that office made it very difficult for claimants to prove their case by traditional means. Indeed, according to the judge in the case, in some cases, the remaining staffers in the USDA's civil rights office “simply threw discrimination complaints in the trash without ever responding to or investigating them. In other cases, even if there was a finding of discrimination, the farmer never received any relief.”
But proving a Track B case isn't impossible. Indeed, as Breitbart notes in his Pigford report, Sherrod, her husband, and their farming company were able to win a Track B claim.
If Breitbart doesn't even know the basic facts about Pigford after months of investigation, it's awfully tough to believe his conspiracy theories about what the case means.