Judge tosses Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, touts First Amendment

A federal judge tosses Sarah Palin's lawsuit, saying the Times didn't defame her

Published August 30, 2017 9:16AM (EDT)

   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

A defamation lawsuit by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been dismissed by a federal judge.

As U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff explained on Tuesday, "Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States. In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made, some of which will be hurtful to others. Responsible journals will promptly correct their errors; others will not."

Rakoff added:

But if political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity.

In other words: The burden of proof rests with Palin — and for that matter, other snowflake politicians, left and right alike — to prove that journalists who wrote inaccurate things about her did so with deliberately defamatory intent. This could constitute actual malice (that is, knowingly publishing false information) or reckless disregard for the truth (that is, being grossly irresponsible in making sure what one published was accurate).

Palin's lawsuit failed to meet either of these standards.

The underlying issue, according to The New York Times, was that the Times published an editorial earlier this summer which compared the left-wing terrorist who shot up a congressional baseball practice with a map of targeted congressional districts promoted by Palin's political action committee in 2010. The editorial did this to claim, incorrectly, that Palin's map had been somehow connected to Jared Lee Loughner's 2011 assassination attempt against Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

While the editorial's assertion was factually in error, and the Times noted this in a subsequent correction, Palin's lawsuit insisted that this effort wasn't enough.

"The Times had ample facts available that established that there was no connection between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s crime," Palin claimed.

Apparently at least one federal judge disagrees with Palin on that point.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Defamation Sarah Palin The New York Times