Gingrich: Palin could sue "SNL" for slander

The former House speaker could use a lesson in First Amendment law.

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 23, 2008 6:25PM (EDT)

During an appearance on Fox News Wednesday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was up in arms over what he sees as the media's poor treatment of Sarah Palin. In fact, he said, some of what has been done to her and her family is so bad that it's worthy of taking to court.

"I think the elite media's attack on Governor Palin again and again has been factually wrong, intellectually dishonest, totally biased, worthy of the Polish state news media attacking Lech Walesa back in the 1980s," Gingrich told host Greta Van Susteren. "I mean, this is a kind of deliberate, vicious, dishonest, total distortion of who Governor Palin is, including, by the way, the 'Saturday Night Live' skits, some of which I think were slander and were worthy of a lawsuit."

It's always comforting to know that a man who once ran the House of Representatives has such a firm grasp of the law, isn't it? Because in, fact, if Palin did sue "SNL" over the skits, she couldn't prevail.

There's a rather famous case about this, actually, stemming from the Rev. Jerry Falwell's lawsuit against Hustler Magazine over a parody the magazine printed, a fictional advertisement in which "Falwell" talked about having sex with his mother in an outhouse. In Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 against the evangelical leader, saying that such parodies of public figures are protected speech under the First Amendment.

Video of Gingrich on Fox, via Think Progress, is below.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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