Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times has been tossed by a federal judge after he said that she failed to prove that the NYT knowingly published the false statements.
Judge Jed Rakoff said that the lawsuit “fails on its face to adequately allege actual malice.”
This all came about after the former Alaskan governor saw an article published by the NYT titled, “America’s Lethal Politics.”
The Times’ editorial was corrected twice when readers complained that it appeared to blame a political action committee belonging to Palin, a former Republican vice presidential candidate, for “political incitement” after it distributed a map depicting Democratic lawmakers beneath crosshairs before the 2011 shooting of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona. The newspaper issued corrections the next morning to remove those references and note the map showed electoral districts, not people, in crosshairs.
Rakoff stated, “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.”
The judge continued, “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.”
He said if political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, lawsuits by public figures must be limited to when there is a “plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously.”
Lawyers for Palin did not immediately comment.
In a statement, the Times said it was delighted with the ruling and regretted the errors.
“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.
Rakoff had previously heard testimony from James Bennet, the Times’ editorial page editor, saying he thought the editorial was accurate when he approved its publication but later learned otherwise.
The judge dismissed an argument by Palin’s lawyers that the newspaper might have been trying to boost sales by attacking Palin.