Political Editors / Aug. 31, 2017

Judge Tosses Palin’s Defamation Suit Against NYT

He concluded that negligence, not malice, was the culprit for the Times’ fallacious story.

Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times on Tuesday. Rakoff explained his decision, stating, “Each and every item of alleged support for plaintiff’s [Palin’s] claim of actual malice 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.”

Recall that Palin brought the suit against the Times over its editorial this summer recycling the paper’s six-year-old and long-since debunked conclusion that the Tucson psychopath who in 2011 shot Rep. Gabby Giffords and 17 others, killing six people, was inspired by “crosshairs” on a map on Palin’s website. The Times wrote the piece in June following the attack of the crazed leftist on Republican congressmen at a baseball practice. It was a particularly shoddy piece of reporting that relied on accusations that had been thoroughly debunked years ago.

Yet while it’s clear the Times has no love for Palin, the First Amendment sets a high bar for public figures who seek to hold the press or individuals accountable for defamatory speech. As Rakoff stated, Palin needed to prove that the Times intentionally acted with “actual malice.” Instead, the judge determined that the Times’ actions amounted to a failure of due diligence resulting in negligent reporting rather than intentional malice. Knowing the Times, we’d heartily disagree, but attributing motive legally is rightfully a high bar. While the Times has been found innocent of malice, the paper certainly did not come out of this whole thing looking good. What does it say about quality control at The New York Times that it failed to do even basic homework before running a factually vacuous story? But seeing as it’s the Times, we would say it’s par for the course.

It’s obvious to us that the Times fallaciously referenced Palin in order to deflect any criticism of its negative reporting on Republicans prior to the crazed leftist’s attack on congressional Republicans. Palin had a good case in our estimation, but it’s hard to imagine a country in which public figures could more easily sue the press for unfavorable coverage. Truthfully, it’s a good thing that protections of First Amendment rights are set so high.

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