Judge dismisses Palin defamation lawsuit against New York Times



Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is pictured. | Kris Connor/Getty Images.

A lawsuit brought by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin against The New York Times was dismissed by a federal judge Tuesday. The judge argued that there was not sufficient evidence that the Times had made the error “with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity.” | Kris Connor/Getty Images.

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against The New York Times, concluding that she had failed to show that the Times had defamed her in a June staff editorial.

Palin, the running mate of GOP presidential nominee John McCain in 2008, filed the complaint after the Times published an editorial that seemed to link Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ 2011 shooting to an advertisement from Palin’s political action committee.

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The paper later acknowledged the mistake and corrected the editorial, which was written by a staffer and later largely rewritten by editorial page editor James Bennett, to note that no link was ever established between the shooting and the ad.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff concluded Tuesday that the mistake did not rise to the level of defamation. He reasoned that the statements in the Times piece were sufficiently ambiguous, and thus did not qualify as “provably false,” and said there is a lack of evidence that the Times had written the story with “actual malice.”

Palin’s complaint did not identify an individual who might have acted that way, he said, and Bennett’s behavior was “much more plausibly consistent with making an unintended mistake and then correcting it than with acting with actual malice.”

Rakoff noted in his opinion that Palin, as a public figure, could not seek “legal redress” for the story unless there was sufficient evidence that the Times had made the error “with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity.”

“[I]f 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,” Rakoff wrote.



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