In a stunning blow to Sarah Palin, a federal judge on Tuesday threw out her defamation suit against The New York Times stating Palin did not successfully demonstrate the newspaper knowingly published false statements in an editorial before they quickly corrected them, the USA Today reported.
In the Times’ original editorial, they accused a Palin GOP political action committee of illustrating Democratic lawmakers under crosshairs prior to the 2011 shooting of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona and distributing them.
When the newspaper made the correction, the map showed electoral districts, not people in the crosshairs.
The ruling judge in Palin’s case, Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, said that it, “fails on its face to adequately allege actual malice.” Palin’s suit was seeking unspecified damages.
Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, and onetime Republican vice presidential nominee, decided to sue The New York Times after they published an editorial titled “America’s Lethal Politics.” U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was wounded in June as a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers in Virginia as they practiced for a friendly bi-partisan baseball game. The editorial came soon after Scalise was shot.
Judge Rakoff said regarding the case, “What we have here is an editorial, written and rewritten rapidly in order to voice an opinion on an immediate event of importance, in which are included a few factual inaccuracies somewhat pertaining to Mrs. Palin that are very rapidly corrected. Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not.”
“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,” wrote Rakoff as he waxed philosophically.
Not surprisingly, The Times said it was delighted with the ruling and regretted the errors it made in the editorial. A spokeswoman for The Times released the following statement:
“Judge Rakoff’s opinion is an important reminder of the country’s deep commitment to a free press and the important role that journalism plays in our democracy. We regret the errors we made in the editorial. But we were pleased to see that the court acknowledged the importance of the prompt correction we made once we learned of the mistakes. In the words of the court, ‘if political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited’ to cases where there is something more than an honest mistake.”
Rakoff further added, “There is not a shred of factual support, either in the complaint or in the evidentiary hearing, for the supposition that considerations of attracting readership ever entered Mr. Bennet’s mind when he was drafting this particular editorial. Indeed, if that were his goal, one would have expected him to mention Mrs. Palin’s name more than once in the editorial or use her name in the social media promoting the editorial, neither of which was done.”
He additionally wrote, “As to the alleged ‘hostility,’ it goes without saying that the Times editorial board is not a fan of Mrs. Palin. But neither the fact of that opposition, nor the supposition that a sharp attack on a disfavored political figure will increase a publication’s readership, has ever been enough to prove actual malice.”
The judge also dismissed an argument by Palin’s lawyers that the newspaper might have been trying to boost sales by attacking Palin.
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