Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s attempt to stick it to the mainstream media— a sector that she considers “fake news” — through her libel lawsuit against The New York Times flamed out spectacularly today.
Even though the jury was already deliberating to reach a verdict after both the plaintiffs and defense had rested their cases in the suit that Palin brought claiming that the newspaper had defamed her, U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that the entire case should be thrown out of court “because her lawyers failed to produce evidence that the newspaper knew what it wrote about her was false or acted recklessly towards indications it was false,” according to reporting from POLITICO.
The suit was brought by the former Alaska governor after The New York Times published an editorial that erroneously connected Palin’s pro-gun political rhetoric to the mass shooting near Tucson, Arizona in 2011 that resulted in the deaths of six people and the wounding of 14 others, including then-Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
After readers pointed out that there was no proven connection between the Giffords shooting and Palin’s Second Amendment bloviating, the newspaper issued a correction admitting the mistake the day after the editorial was originally published.
Despite the correction, Palin was determined to hold The New York Times accountable for what she considered to be “actual malice” in publishing an editorial that she believes damaged her reputation in politics.
The standard of “actual malice” — meaning that the newspaper published information that it knew to be false, displaying a reckless disregard for the truth — is important in determining whether the legal definition of libelous action had been met in the suit.
The case has been seen by many observers to be the most important test of publishers’ First Amendment rights to be heard in recent years and has been closely watched by both media organizations and the politicians that they regularly cover.
Despite his ruling that the case should be dismissed on account of a lack of evidence proving malice, Judge Rakoff is allowing the jury in the case to continue to deliberate and reach a verdict, believing that Sarah Palin will appeal the case if the jury decides against her and saying that the appeals court “would greatly benefit from knowing how the jury would decide.”
An appeal is also likely if the jury finds in favor of Palin since the judge has said that he will dismiss the case under those circumstances.
While Palin has painted herself as a David vs. the Goliath of the newspaper business, she was once a powerful figure in Republican politics before she resigned from her governorship of Alaska to become a commentator on Fox News and a contestant on reality shows like Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer.
With powerful friends in right-wing circles, it’s likely that Palin will appeal Judge Rakoff’s ruling no matter what verdict the jury delivers.
Stay tuned for another round of “fake news” attacks on so-called mainstream media.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.