A few months before his death, Andrew Breitbart secured nearly ten million dollars in venture capital from two sources. One of them was reportedly his friend Aubrey Chernick, a right wing Israel-booster who made his fortune in the national security world and uses his millions to subsidize Islamophobia. So what has happened to Breitbart’s Muslim-bashing millions since his death? We ask because as Shirley Sherrod’s defamation case advances to its inevitable conclusion, no one seems to want to own that money anymore.
Shirley Sherrod has clearly been defamed by malicious and sloppy journalism. But U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon recently said he was “mystified” that attorneys for the Breitbart estate do not seem to know whether Breitbart had a will when he died. In a hearing on Sherrod’s suit against the Breitbart estate, the law firm of Katten Muchin appeared unsure that they even represent Andrew’s fortune. Calling the attorneys “evasive and uncooperative,” Leon read them the riot act and allowed thirty days for them to “‘disabuse’ him of the notion that the defense or the defendants were being uncooperative in the case” before he holds them in contempt of court:
“This court expects a law firm of the stature of Katten Muchin to not be a party to games like this, at least as the court sees it,” Judge Leon said.
“If he died intestate, if he had no will, I want to know it. Point blank,” Judge Leon added.
The full story was posted on September 11th at Law360.com, where you must register to read it. Breitbart News President and CEO Larry Solov managed to draw Judge Leon’s attention at the hearing, and not in a good way. As the head of what remains of Andrew’s blog empire, Solov is the only person who seems at all eager to defend the estate anymore. Katten Muchin apparently wants no part of a losing defamation case.
Wednesday’s hearing started badly from the outset for Breitbart’s side. Breitbart executive and former general counsel Laurence Solov, who attended the hearing and sat initially at the bar, was told by Judge Leon to remove himself after admitting he was not an attorney on the D.C. bar or a legal representative of the party in the dispute.
“What is he doing here?” Judge Leon asked.
“Step back,” he added, telling Solov to sit in the seats reserved for the public.
Sherrod’s lawsuit has proceeded slowly thanks to a series of motions regarding the John Doe in Georgia who provided Breitbart with the video clip of Sherrod. After Judge Leon granted a defense motion to let John Doe answer Sherrod’s attorney’s questions anonymously, her legal team finally got answers to how the clip of her talking about an interview with a white farmer was presented in such a misleading manner.
In a BU exclusive, we have that document (.PDF). John Doe admits that he did not watch the entire speech, so he did not know the context of the clip or Sherrod’s story about the white farmer when he told Andrew Breitbart about it. After two failed attempts to transmit the entire video to Breitbart employee Larry O’Connor, John Doe finally succeeded:
On July 18, Mr. O’Connor told me that the file I had sent on July 14 was of poor quality because of background noise and that we needed to capture it again. I repeated what I had done earlier and also captured the part of the speech where Mrs. Sherrod makes statements about lifetime government jobs being available at the USDA. I sent both video excerpts to Mr. O’Connor through yousendit.com. The following day, on July 19, I mailed a DVD copy of the entire speech to Mr. O’Connor by UPS for delivery on July 20 and sent him an email with the tracking number. From that point on, I had no further role in providing information to Mr. Breitbart or Mr. O’Connor. Like the rest of the public, I read the commentary for the first time when it was published on Mr. Breitbart’s blog.
Mrs. Sherrod’s Complaint contains many incorrect factual assertions about my role in this matter, which was limited to the contacts described above with Mr. Breitbart and Mr. O’Connor. The allegation that I inserted “inaccurate text” into an “edited video segment” of her speech and posted this “edited” video on YouTube is false. I inserted nothing into the excerpts, nor do I posses the skill to perform such a task.
In denying Sherrod’s “incorrect factual assertions” this way, John Doe leaves Larry O’Connor and Andrew Breitbart as the principals responsible for defaming her. O’Connor, who is responsible for the Protective Order for John Doe’s name, was clearly an employee of Breitbart, who bore executive responsibility for the inaccurate text and the clip’s presentation without context. Whatever is left of Andrew in a legal sense, that entity is what must be held to account at trial. But so far, no one wants to admit that any such entity exists.
Perhaps the legal strategy here is to use up Andrew’s millions by extending litigation for as long as possible. If so, we recommend Jarndyce and Jarndyce for your legal research. But we are pretty sure that the weird way this courtroom disaster is unfolding has more to do with the loss of Andrew Breitbart’s authoritarian style. Eulogies about his “unique vision” for a right wing web empire have been a polite way of saying that his blogging inheritors are a pack of venal losers and idiots. As Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert told Dave Weigel,
“I don’t think Breitbart hired very strong editors to work for him,” he said. “Take the Derrick Bell story. The only pick-up it got was in its own corner of the Internet.” He wasn’t impressed at how Fox News covered the story? “I don’t count Fox. In the real world, no one paid attention.” The Daily Show covered the story, too, but we can move on. When Breitbart ran the shop, they scrambled to combat the ACORN tapes and pieces about the past of the openly gay “education czar” Kevin Jennings. The danger seems to have passed. “They’re having trouble sustaining it.”
Andrew Breitbart, who once proudly described himself as a C student on C-SPAN, died surrounded by people who made him look like the smartest person in the room. One of them was Lee Stranahan, who announced he was leaving Breitbart.com over the weekend. He is very proud of his work on the Pigford story, which is related to the smearing of Sherrod.
I can’t blame other people for not having Andrew’s unique editorial vision: it was unique for a reason. But ignoring it is another thing.
— Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan) September 23, 2013
And this new editorial policy extended to things like Pigford. I was specifically told several times to NOT cover Pigford.
— Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan) September 23, 2013
After the NYT Pigford story hit, we had a spate of coverage but then I was told to stop spending any time on it. Somewhere, Andrew wept.
— Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan) September 23, 2013
All that being said, I was able to do work I’m proud of at Breitbart and was supported when I colored inside the lines.
— Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan) September 23, 2013
Yes, Breitbart.com is a right wing coloring book. But Solov and O’Connor at least seem to have understood that the Pigford story and its defamatory stepchild were best abandoned before they dragged the whole ship under water. Stranahan, who insists to this day that Shirley Sherrod is an evil person who deserved her defamation, is not smart enough to comprehend the legal exposure that further coverage of those stories would surely create. His ratlike intelligence is good enough to escape a sinking ship, however, and so he has. In fact, he has been trying to find a paying gig outside of Breitbart.com since shortly after his mentor’s death. One of his supporters is Dana Loesch, who is herself suing Breitbart.com for holding her in “indentured servitude” after she tried to find outside work.
Whatever is left of Andrew, it is already being sued into nonexistence. In all likelihood, Aubrey Chernick’s millions will make lawyers very rich while the blog empire he sought to fund bleeds away the minor talent it has left. When judgment finally comes down, we doubt there will be anything left of Andrew’s fortune for Sherrod to claim.
It sounds like, from reading the articles about the hearing, that the Breitbart team is trying to hide assets. If he did not have a will or failed to put money in trust for his children, then all of his assets are up for grabs.
Another note about Breitbart.com. Its numbers tanked after AB died. The site is just about as dead as he is, and it has lost its potential for the future income or growth. From a financial standpoint, it could probably not even get the interest of any serious buyer. In fact, any potential buyer would be scared off by the suits pending against it.
If I were a betting man, I would bet that the Shirley Sherrod judgment will run in the millions. As a lawyer, here is what I would be looking at: Case is in DC. Sherrod is African American. In DC, African Americans tend to dominate juries simply due to the math. Also, DC has a very high percentage of Democrat voters, most of whom would not think kindly of a racist hater like Breitbart attacking a 60+ African American woman who worked all her life to uplift others. The potential for compensatory damages could run into the millions and then add in the punitive damages, and this verdict could rightly be one that will wipe out Breitbart.com. Finally, the judge is clearly annoyed with Breitbart so he will not break for him.
I don’t agree with the analysis that a big conservative funder is going to come in and save the day by paying the judgment. First, Breitbart.com is done, just like Mitt Romney is done. Second, no funder is going to want to pay a “black, liberal Democrat” who helped African American farmers.
The writing is on the wall here. If I were the lawyers in the doghouse, I would do everything in my power to settle this case, and quick. Unless, of course, they hope to represent Breitbart in a bankruptcy case too.
And if I were Sherrod’s lawyers, I would not settle for less than five million, because the lawyers have to be paid and the IRS will get their cut. Sherrod should at least be able to walk away with two million clear.
Stranahan’s been ruminating on starting his own website to pick up with the stories he’s been running with for two years. One thing about the news — it’s only newsworthy for so long. Once something has been uncovered, there’s always the next story. So, while Steubenville was a big story, it doesn’t really merit national coverage now that the trials has concluded, but Stranahan feels there is more to reveal, and Breitbart.com supposedly disagreed. He gets too close and personally invested in his stories, and often, becomes part of the story himself. In terms of liability & lawsuits, what corporation wants to bear the brunt of the regular editorial risks he takes?
I meant to conclude the above comment by saying this is one of many reasons the Breitbart.com machine is breaking down. :0) Too many lawsuit risks, not enough actual news.
Interesting that there is an Aubrey Chernick on Twitter. But this person appears to be a female who likes shoes and monkeys. Did Andrew?
I have seen this account before and believe the name is meant as parody. Unless Mr. Chernick has a secret fetish for monkeys and shoes, of course.
Breitbart’s wife had to sell their house. They lived there for about 15 years. I’m sure the house had already been paid for in full considering the money he had. So why sell their home? She also moved in the beginning of the school year. If their kids went to school and not home schooled, she would not have uprooted them at the beginning of a school year. But why would any parent sell the home their minor children remember living with the memories of their father? If I was in her shoes, I would never sell the house so soon. She did so because all rumors are that they robbed Andrew’s estate blind and she’s been left with nothing. And none of Andrew’s friends helped her either.
Rumors are she had been demanding to see the books while everyone was always hiding things from her after Breitbart died. Where is all the money he had in savings? The site also had no ads when he was alive unlike now. Every big website has ads. Look at any website in every corner in politics. They all have ads. I was told Breitbart never had ads. Which means he had anonymous donors bankrolling him telling him which stories to produce.
Breitbart also didn’t really pay his writers. Like at HuffingtonPost, most writers are not paid in those types of community sites. They write for free so they can have the exposure and drive traffic back to their own blogs. So Breitbart was saving a fortune by not paying his writers. He paid O’Keefe a fortune for all the illegal criminal stings he performed for Breitbart. The only reason O’Keefe isn’t in prison after breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office is because the other felon involved has a father for a U.S. Attorney. They all plead guilty to a lesser crime.
O’Keefe and Giles lost their ACORN case and have now had to pay more in a settlement than what Breitbart had paid them for that sting. There’s also all the legal bills. Breitbart also paid Giles less than he did O’Keefe.
Then there’s all the leeches like gay male prostitute @Ali Akbar who started his illegal Breitbart scholarship fund without the approval of any of the three who now run Breitbart. There’s also pimp and pornographer Lee Stranahan who started selling shirts three weeks after Breitbart died.
Dana Loesch has no right to sue anyone. What work did she lose that would add up to $75,000 in lost wages between the time Breitbart died and when she left? She lies about how they created a “hostile work environment” for her. Bullshit. She was no longer Breitbart’s top whore after he died. She was now being treated like everyone else at the company. She was never qualified to be editor either. She was lucky anyone would hire her but now she’s trying to take from the company who she would be nothing without. She’s the one who creates the hostile work environment. She and her husband treated everyone at CNN like shit when she was a contributor there. they fired her because of how she and her husband publicly treated the real CNN talent.
Anti Union Dana Loesch Sues Breitbart for Hostile Working Conditions
The rabidly anti-union Dana wants at least $75,000 in damages and to be set free! Doesn’t she realize that as a conservative, she stands for “tort reform” which means making it harder for anyone to sue big companies? She is, after all, mere labor. Is Dana waging a class war against the job creators at Breitbart? Oh, she doesn’t like the job, they don’t treat her well? She isn’t trying hard enough. She feels entitled. Pfft.
I do enjoy right wing hypocrisy…