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Sarah Palin’s Defamation Lawsuit against The New York Times Dismissed
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Sarah Palin. Photo courtesy of CNN Money.

Summary: A judge said that the former Alaskan governor could not prove the newspaper was working maliciously.

On Tuesday, a New York federal judge dismissed Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against The New York Times. The gun-loving, hockey mom was upset about an editorial that falsely linked her to a 2011 mass shooting, but the judge said that the newspaper did not have malicious intent, one of the criteria needed for a public figure to win a defamation case.


According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan stated in his 26-page decision that the editorial in question was error-filled but not malicious.

“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,” Rakoff wrote. “Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not.”

Rakoff added that Palin’s legal team’s evidence was weak. It consisted “either of gross supposition or of evidence so weak that, even together, these items cannot support the high degree of particularized proof.”

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Palin sued the popular newspaper in June, seeking $75,000 in damages, after it ran an editorial on June 14 called “America’s Lethal Politics.” The editorial concerned the Virginia baseball field shooting that injured four people, including U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican.

The editorial tried to link the shooting to political violence such as the 2011 Arizona shooting by Jared Lee Loughner that targetted Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

The editorial stated that Palin, a Republican and former vice presidential nominee, circulated a map using her political group that put Giffords and other Democratics in danger. The editorial was subsequently corrected, stating there was no link between Palin’s words and Loughner’s actions and that the map depicted electoral districts, not individuals to target.

During a hearing earlier this month, James Bennet, the editor of the New York Times editorial board, admitted that he did not look at the map or review coverage about the 2011 shooting while editing the opinion piece. Judge Rakoff ruled that Bennet’s negligence did not equate to him publishing something that he knew was false.

Judge Rakoff said in in his ruling that political journalism was needed “to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful.” He acknowledged that it was obvious the Times staff did not like Palin, but that was not enough to constitute defamation.

“As to the alleged ‘hostility,’ it goes without saying that the Times editorial board is not a fan of Mrs. Palin,” Rakoff wrote. “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 New York Times issued a statement to NBC News that it was pleased with the judge’s decision.

“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,” the newspaper said.

What do you think of Judge Rakoff’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.



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