Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was just handed a resounding defeat from a judge in her sad attempt to sue the New York Times because they printed something she didn’t like.
In 2011, Sarah Palin’s “Sarah-PAC” released a controversial advertisement in which Democrats who supported the passage of the Affordable Care Act were depicted in target crosshairs.
Not too long afterwards, a right-wing terrorist attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-NM), shooting her in the head and nearly killing her. There is no discernible link between the Giffords shooting and this super-PAC ad, but it goes without saying that there can be no mistaking the implied violence placing the names of our representatives under what Palin herself admitted were crosshairs.
Following the recent shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-SC) by a disgruntled citizen, the New York Times published an editorial on political violence that implied Sarah Palin’s advertisement played a role in prompting the shooting of Giffords.
After a barrage of complaints from the right-wing, the New York Times amended the editorial to remove any implied connection between Palin’s advertisement and the Giffords shooting.
That wasn’t enough for Palin, however, who promptly sued the newspaper for defamation. In a resounding victory for our press freedoms, Judge J.S. Rakoff just threw out her lawsuit today with this brutal condemnation of her petty litigation.
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. 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.
Here, plaintiff’s complaint, even when supplemented by facts developed at an evidentiary hearing convened by the Court, fails to make that showing. ice consists either of gross supposition or of evidence so weak that, even together, these items cannot support the high degree of particularized proof that must be provided before plaintiff can be said to have adequately alleged clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.
America is currently in the midst of an incredibly volatile political atmosphere in which the President himself actively attacks the mainstream media and the journalists of this country on a near-daily basis.
This ruling is a huge win for the free press in the United States, sending a strong message that the right-wing won’t be able to sue their way into trampling the First Amendment and silencing investigators that expose their hypocrisies and their crimes.