Remember how Sarah Palin sued the New York Times for mistakenly saying that a concrete link had been established between her Facebook post that featured crosshairs over former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district and Jared Loughner’s decision to open fire on her? Well, that didn’t work out so well.
“Don’t retreat. RELOAD,” Palin famously posted on Facebook along with an image depicting gun sights over various states whose legislators she was “targeting.” Shortly after, Loughner shot Giffords in the head and pumped bullets into numerous others, killing six and wounding thirteen others.
No concrete link between the two has been established — though it is reasonable to assume Palin’s encouragement played a role in the shooting.
Speaking of shooting, District Judge Jed Rakoff shot down Palin’s frivolous lawsuit against the Times on Tuesday.
“Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust or, perhaps, so rowdy as in the United States,” Judge Rakoff wrote in his 26-page decision. “But if 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.”
“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.”
“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,” a spokeswoman for the Times said. “We regret the errors we made in the editorial. But we were pleased to see that the court acknowledged the importance of the prompt correction we made once we learned of the mistakes.”
This is, of course, bad news for Palin and her ally Donald Trump, who wants to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to people like Palin to file frivolous lawsuits against journalistic institutions for every little mistake even if a correction has been made.
Lately, the Right has been practically masturbating over the idea of bullying anyone who reports something they don’t like with expensive lawsuits as an attempt to keep criticism to a minimum.
This is bad news for anyone who has recently filed a frivolous lawsuit against journalists, including “alt-Right” (a term employed by Nazis as a form of rebranding) journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, who sued a Fusion reporter for correctly reporting that she had made a hand gesture that had been adopted by the “white power” movement during a visit to the White House.
Fortunately, Judge Rakoff refused to allow Palin’s farcical lawsuit to get off the ground. Hopefully, this sends a message to the Right that bullying journalists with lawsuits will not go well for them.
Featured image via screengrab