A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin filed against the New York Times and said Palin failed to show the newspaper acted maliciously.
"Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States," Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in his order Tuesday. "In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made, some of which will be hurtful to others. Responsible journals will promptly correct their efforts; others will not."
"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, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard for its falsity," the judge added.
Palin, Rakoff said, failed to show the New York Times' editorial board intentionally acted maliciously.
Palin filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times in June after the newspaper published an editorial on June 14 drawing a connection between her political action committee and the January 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
In its original form, the editorial said the link was "clear," because Palin's PAC "circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords... under stylized crosshairs."
The editorial board wrote the op-ed after a gunman opened fire on a group of Republican lawmakers practicing for the annual congressional baseball game. The New York Times corrected its editorial two days after it was published, saying it "incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established."
Palin accused the New York Times of "defaming her by publishing a statement that it knew to be false."
In his order dismissing Palin's lawsuit, Rakoff admitted that while the New York Times may have been negligent in trying to tie the political rhetoric of Palin's political organization to the 2011 shooting, it did not defame the former Alaska governor.
"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."