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Decision Dismissing Sarah Palin's Libel Suit Is an Embarrassment to the Times

The ruling shows how carelessly the paper peddled nonsense about Republican rhetoric and mass murder.

SarahPACSarahPACAfter a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, was interrupted by gunfire on June 14, a New York Times editorial revived the much-debunked myth that a graphic created by Sarah Palin's political action committee had something to do with the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. Two weeks later, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate sued the Times for defamation, and yesterday a federal judge dismissed the case.

Although it seems correct as a matter of law, the decision should not be interpreted as a vindication of the Times. To the contrary, the details described in U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff's ruling highlight the journalistic malpractice, magical thinking, and blinkered tribalism that led to this stupid and embarrassing mistake.

The editorial, "America's Lethal Politics," used a violent attack on Republicans as a pretext to remind us how awful they are:

Was this attack [on Republicans at the baseball game] evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin's political action committee [SarahPAC] circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They' re right. Though there's no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

The Times thus managed to feign evenhandedness even while suggesting that right-wing rhetoric is more vicious than left-wing rhetoric and more clearly implicated in violence. But as the paper admitted in a correction published the next day, it was all nonsense:

An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized crosshairs.

Although the editorial was inaccurate and reflected negatively on Palin, Rakoff concludes that she failed to allege facts sufficient to show that it was a product of "actual malice," the standard that applies in defamation cases involving public figures. Actual malice means the person responsible for a defamatory statement—in this case, James Bennet, the paper's editorial page editor—knew it was false or published it with "reckless disregard" as to its accuracy. In Rakoff's view, Bennet was in a rush and screwed up, which does not mean he knew or suspected that what he said was wrong.

"What we have here," Rakoff writes, "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."

I think that assessment is basically right, but the direction of Bennet's negligence is telling. It seems unlikely that he would have been so quick to repeat a baseless accusation linking a Democrat to mass murder.

The purported connection between Palin and the Tucson attack was something that stuck in Bennet's mind, even though it had been repeatedly debunked in the pages of his own newspaper and in The Atlantic, which he used to edit. It stuck in his mind even though it was contradicted by the ABC News article to which the editorial linked, a fact that undermines Palin's case even while it underlines Bennet's carelessness. It stuck in his mind because he wanted to believe it, and he wanted to believe it because it was consistent with his preconceptions about nasty right-wingers.

At a hearing that Rakoff convened to clarify how the editorial had been produced, Bennet testified that he instructed Elizabeth Williamson, the editorial writer who composed the first draft, to look up the commentary that the Times had published after the Tucson shooting. Apparently he remembered that attack as motivated by right-wing ideology or hostility toward liberal Democrats, even though there was never any evidence that it was.

Bennet testified that he does not recall reading any of the articles contradicting that notion in the Times, The Atlantic, or anywhere else. Nor did he bother to read the articles he told Williamson to read, which included a column that said "Loughner was likely insane, with no coherent ideological agenda" and a Times editorial that said "it is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members." Bennet did not even dip into the ABC News article that the editorial cited, which noted that "no connection has been made between [the SarahPAC Map] and the Arizona shooting."

Bennet's ignorance on the subject did not stop him from reinforcing the nonexistent link between Palin and Loughner when he rewrote the editorial. Williamson's draft claimed the Tucson and Alexandria attacks both were motivated by "rage" that was "nurtured in a vile political climate," and it mentioned criticism of the SarahPAC map. Bennet's version said "the link to political incitement was clear" and "direct," citing the map and its banal imagery as evidence.

Bennet testified that he was surprised to hear readers had interpreted what he wrote to mean that Sarah Palin had blood on her hands. He insisted he "did not intend to imply a causal link" between the map and the Tucson shooting, which is hard to believe. By contrast, it is easy to believe that Bennet was disinclined to take even a cursory look at the empirical basis for his assertion that "political incitement" moved Loughner to murder. As far as he was concerned, that was a well-known fact.

Promoting baseless claims because they are ideologically convenient and make your enemies look bad may not be defamation. But neither is it good, or even mediocre, journalism. The best that can be said in Bennet's defense is that, like Donald Trump, he sincerely believed the nonsense he peddled.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Let's face it, the Times readership did not mind this at all. They may have even gained some in circulation.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm not sure if they are particularly capable of feeling shame anyway.

  • Quixote||

    We really must get rid of this "actual malice" standard, so organizations like the Times can be held accountable for their fake news. One possibility would be to look to America's leading criminal "satire" case for guidance, because there no "actual" malice was required at all; the appellate courts upheld the conviction for criminally deadpan "parody" on the simple ground that there was "sufficient" evidence of an intent to "damage a reputation," without any requirement for malice at all. See the documentation at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    The prosecutors in the Kolb case pursued criminal charges against a blogger who engaged in parody online. By doing so they evaded the civil standard of "actual malice" since that was not an element in the crimes charged. And that is supposed to be a guide for the future? It should be hard to sue or prosecute media for content; to lessen the requirements for doing so is to open the door for repeated attacks on the media -- all media -- in both criminal and civil courts. That cannot be a good thing.

  • Quixote||

    Surely you would not dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in the Kolb case? Since that "opinion" of a so-called judge is so obviously inappropriate, it follows that the technique used in that case to get around this "actual malice" business was good law and can usefully be extended to situations like the one we have here.

  • retiredfire||

    Show me, in the Constitution, where freedom of the press is granted any special consideration over the freedom of speech that is routinely punished if the content of the speech defames an individual with false statements.
    They are both within the same sentence, which should indicate that they should be treated equally, but somehow there have been special freedoms granted, especially for the press.
    The media should be held to account for putting out false information on anyone, including public figures. That they aren't gives them a special freedom, not allowed to you, and me, to defame anyone, with an unprovable standard of "actual malice" having to be shown.
    Kolb's case has nothing to do with this - he pretended to be someone else so that he could make it seem like that person was admitting things about himself that weren't true. He deserves to be held to account for that.

  • Quixote||

    Absolutely--not only is defamation routinely punished with jail, but it should be, despite any foolish UN Human Rights Commission rulings to the contrary in which they say that "damage to reputation is never appropriately punished with jail." Such nonsense! We here in America know much better.
    As for Kolb's case, clearly if he had sent out an email making it seem like someone were claiming to have eaten an apple, he would not have been punished; but to make it seem like someone was attempting to suppress allegations of serious academic conduct leveled at him by a major Israeli academic and journalist--allegations that had previously been rightly suppressed--that is reprehensible and must absolutely be punished with jail.

  • Ben of Houston||

    I have to agree with Curmudgeon. Protecting the media, ESPECIALLY when they disagree with you, should be important. I think the judge did the right thing in this case. It was extremely unethical of the editor to write that, and publicly castigating them was correct by the judge.

    However, the Time's actions aren't really criminal. We don't want to make possible for the next Boss Tweed to shut down his critics.

  • Quixote||

    I would here ask the same question as I put to UnrepentantCurmudgeon. Surely you would not defend that inappropriate "dissenting" opinion of a single judge, and surely the "actual malice" standard has seen its day? I hear that in New York they are already mounting other cases on the basis of the excellent Kolb decision, and not even the ACLU, let alone anyone in the so-called "First Amendment community" (ha-ha-ha) is speaking out against this normal evolution of the law.

  • KerryW||

    Enough with the Trump comments.

  • Professor Woland||

    Honest question, had Reason inserted digs at Obama in most of its articles, would that have been as objectionable?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'd think it is obnoxious, but I am the only truly philosophically pure poster on this website.

  • Professor Woland||

    No way, that's Hihn.

  • Sevo||

    And if you don't believe this, just ask hihn. Uh, him.

  • Bra Ket||

    The best thing that can be said in Obama's defense is that he didn't sincerely believe the nonsense that he peddled?

  • Malvolio||

    If the best that can be said in your defense is that you are not competent to be held responsible for what you say, maybe you should stop talking until you're a little more qualified.

  • JFree||

    Or perhaps that's exactly when a promotion should be expected.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If the Times were held to that standard, every single one of its writers would be sent back to kindergarten, where they clearly belong. I don't mind bias in a news organization; that's par for the course. I mind stupidity, rampant delusion, and bad writing.

  • Tony||

    I dunno sounds like typical Republican-Palin snowflake butthurt.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Eh, not all butthurt is irrational, unjustly linking one to mass murder and death is a bit more reasonable for butthurt reaction than say, a 20 something freaking out cause they see a white person eating a taco.

  • Tony||

    Palin is not unjustly linked to mass murder and death. The universe will die a heat death before she and her party are held fully responsible for the death they've directly caused by their support for unlimited gun proliferation and hateful scapegoating rhetoric.

  • Microaggressor||

    Your imaginary world sounds an awful lot like Antifa's justification for violence.

  • Tony||

    Whatever it is, it's better than "How dare you take the slaves away from my great-great granddaddy!"

  • ||

    Whatever it is, it's better than "How dare you take the slaves away from my great-great granddaddy!"

    Among other things never said by anyone here.

  • Longtobefree||

    Force of arms is how they dared; how does that fit with your gun control?
    Have you taken 6 hours of political writing courses, and paid $200.00 for a first amendment permit from your local sheriff? Is your local sheriff able to take away your first amendment permit at will? Since you post more than once a month, you should actually have an 'assault posting' permit, allowing the local constabulary to search your home at any time for any reason.

  • Tony||

    Oh, I suppose we have to simply sit back and accept tens of thousands of gun deaths per year because glibness.

  • ||

    Your argument assumes the truth of your conclusion. But you knew that. Or, maybe you didn't. Actually, you probably didn't.

  • Tony||

    I suppose guns could have absolutely nothing to do with gun deaths, and it's just that we're an extremely terribly people. It's possible.

  • sasob||

    I suppose guns could have absolutely nothing to do with gun deaths, and it's just that we're an extremely terribly people. It's possible.

    Speak for yourself, cockroach.

  • Rockabilly||

    Tony, others have said it but I'll say it again, you're an asshat loser.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 6:10PM|#
    "Oh, I suppose we have to simply sit back and accept tens of thousands of gun deaths per year because glibness."

    Why do you find it necessary to lie every time you post, turd-sucker?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    If we accept these deaths, why do states prosecute those who caused these deaths?

  • Ship of Theseus||

    "If we accept these deaths, why do states prosecute those who caused these deaths?"

    Bingo.

    This needs to be repeated over and over to idiots like Tony. Murders aren't accepted. Even libertarians, the people who most want to prevent government from locking us away in cages, accept the need to put murderers in jail (or worse).

  • Tony||

    The dumbest thing ever said needs to be repeated? So you're accepting the thesis that Americans are just exceptionally bad people given our extremely disproportionate number of gun deaths. And the extremely disproportionate number of guns has nothing to do with it. We just are that evil.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Oh, I suppose we have to simply sit back and accept tens of thousands of gun deaths per year because glibness.

    Right now, in the UK, there stands the statue of an angel, composed entirely of blades, as monument to all the knife deaths, and plea that they stop.

    Next to her, covered in dust, there stands a statue of an angel, composed entirely of guns, as monument......

    It is not the tool that is at fault.

  • Tony||

    If knives are just as deadly as guns, why do you need guns?

  • EscherEnigma||

    No permit, but if you think your local sheriff can't take away your First Amendment rights at-will then you haven't been paying attention. Same for searching your home.

  • Palatki||

    Your great great grand daddy was a slave-owning democrat. You do understand that, don't you?

  • ||

    the death they've directly caused by their support for unlimited gun proliferation and hateful scapegoating rhetoric.

    [citation needed]

  • Tony||

    Lots more guns than any other civilized country. Lots more gun deaths than any other civilized country. Call it a correlation.

  • ||

    And since correlation is the same thing as causation, therefore Sarah Palin is a mass-murderer.

    Thanks for once again demonstrating your superior command of logic, Oh Educated One.

  • Longtobefree||

    However, Tony is as much to blame, as he lives in the same civilized country.

  • Tony||

    But the gun freaks don't even try to have a rational argument. That's why their blame is complete and without qualification. It's just "Oh yes NRA and gun lobby, please use me like a fuck doll. Again? Why not, I'm here to serve!"

  • ||

    So . . . your response to my observation that your argument was 100% lacking in logic is to declare that "gun freaks don't even try to have a rational argument."

    And so that makes you right about Sarah Palin being culpable for mass murder because you feel that neither you nor her are capable of making a rational argument about guns?

  • Careless||

    Can't we all just agree that Tony is retarded and leave it at that?

  • Sevo||

    Careless|8.30.17 @ 6:11PM|#
    "Can't we all just agree that Tony is retarded and leave it at that?"

    Well, retarded, actively dishonest and a miserable excuse for a human being besides.
    I'd go for that.

  • Zeb||

    It's just "Oh yes NRA and gun lobby, please use me like a fuck doll. Again? Why not, I'm here to serve!"

    You really don't get it at all, apparently. I'm not a huge lover of the NRA, their fundraising is annoying and they are way too into the cop worshiping BS. But they are very much a grassroots organization that exists because people care about the issue, not the other way around.

  • JFree||

    So who are the barbarian anti-civilized countries? And by calling them barbarian aren't you just promoting hateful stereotypes that result in violence?

  • Tony||

    The ones with small governments and lots of guns.

  • DenverJ||

    Fine. Do we have a higher murder rate? Other than in cities with gun control? I'm sure being murdered by knife it's so much better than being murdered by a fire arm.

  • Ragoftag||

    Uh...no! Palin was both slandered and libeled, unjustly and with malicious intent linked to murder and death. But the universe will die before a liberal is held responsible for the death they've directly caused by their support for the welfare state, gun-free hunting zones, the 'Great Society' and hateful scapegoating rhetoric.

  • ||

    This comment goes into the pantheon of Tonyderpisms.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Palin is not unjustly linked to mass murder and death.

    Get your meds adjusted, you delusional freak.

    -jcr

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 5:19PM|#
    "Palin is not unjustly linked to mass murder and death."

    Tony is positively in favor of mass murder and starvation. Tony promotes mass murder here on a regular basis.

  • Chuckles_the_Snarky_Piggy||

    Sounds like someone has been fantasizing about spanking Sarah Palin...

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Based on his comments, Tony's more into cousin-fucking.

  • Ragoftag||

    No, GOAT fukking

  • Tony||

    You can say fucking here. The complete phrase is "inbred cousinfuckers" and I got it from Veep.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    48 million killed in abortions since 1973. Please go on about needless deaths.

  • Tony||

    If you really believed that you'd quit your job and start killing abortion doctors before they can continue perpetrating the worst holocaust in history. But you don't, do you? Not really.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    And you'd be killing gun dealers.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Was going to post that as well. What a strange leap in logic.

  • Tony||

    Tens of thousands is a statistic, tens of millions is a holocaust.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Spoken like a collectivist. In the 1940s it was legal to kill collectivists. Today you protect each other.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Stalin is to have said: When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics.

  • damikesc||

    I dunno sounds like typical Republican-Palin snowflake butthurt.

    "Obama is from Kenya" --- pure racist and vicious commentary

    "Sarah Palin directly led to the killing of several people" --- reasonable commentary.

    Welcome to the world of Tony.

  • colorblindkid||

    "The best that can be said in Bennet's defense is that, like Donald Trump, he sincerely believed the nonsense he peddled."

    I just don't believe that. It was a known lie.

  • Tony||

    Everything that comes out of Palin and Trump's mouths is a lie. There's that too.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They're politicians, so you're mostly correct if you throw in Obama, Boooosh, Hillary, Billie Clinton, Pelosi, Jeb Bush, Governor Moonbeam, etc.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Trump's not a politician.

  • Tony||

    No shit.

  • Ragoftag||

    A still no citation. lie

  • ||

    Except it was the Times who basically lied but in the progressive style. That is, they know what they say is bull shit and when someone calls them out for their full of shitness they turn around and say, 'what us? We didn't meant that. You're misreading what we said!"

    They're cowards. They don't even have the balls to stand by their bull shit.

    Like good left-wing commies.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    He's the editor of the NYT op-ed page; he likely he is that dumb.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    There is simply no plausible basis for Bennett to assert that he did not remember the facts of the "gun-sight" poster. It was a major controversy at the time. Unless, of course, he's pleading dementia.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    This is what defamation is for.

    You cannot wrecks someone's character with unsupported lies to try and link them to a mass murder attempt. Then print a retraction as if that fixes the problem of you purposefully lying.

    If a jury agreed with Palin, it would signal that media has to back up their stories or they can lose a lawsuit for defamation.

    You can call people names or whatever, especially if they are public figures. You just cannot accuse them of crimes without support.

  • Tony||

    Trump called Obama a foreign-born usurper for the better part of a decade.

  • Alsø alsø wik||

    Obama himself was the first to call himself foreign-born.

  • Tony||

    And remember that time he put his feet on the desk?

    Such a disgrace to the office now restored to nobility by the fat, racist piss-playing grapefruit.

  • damikesc||

    Such a disgrace to the office now restored to nobility by the fat, racist piss-playing grapefruit.

    Decrying Trump being a "liar" by making 2 out of 3 thoroughly false statements does little to bolster your claims that he is dishonest.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Obama took pride in that designation until he decided to run for President

  • TW||

    Kind of like how Elizabeth Warren took pride in in her Native American heritage until she wanted tenure.

  • Microaggressor||

    All this deflection makes you sound really butthurt.

  • Tony||

    Trump said a judge with Mexican heritage can't possibly be impartial. Defamation and racism in one go!

  • ||

    Trump said a judge with Mexican heritage can't possibly be impartial.

    Actually, Trump never said that.

  • Tony||

    He said he can't be impartial when it comes to Trump (what with Trump's campaign being anchored by an appeal to anti-Mexican bigotry).

  • ||

    Hey look - that was a reasonably accurate statement. Was that so hard?

    The one thing you omitted was that Trump said that the judge was not impartial not because he was Mexican, but because he was involved in La Raza. But baby steps.

  • Tony||

    Well it is important to parse Trump's monumental lunacy for accuracy.

  • ||

    If you want people to take you seriously and not dismiss you as a shrieking partisan hysteric, then yes, at least a cursory attempt at accuracy will serve you well.

  • John C. Randolph||

    "Parse" doesn't mean "make shit up when you want to smear someone for something he didn't say", pinhead.

    -jcr

  • Tony||

    Look I don't come here to play rhetorical T-ball with fucking ridiculous Trump apologists.

  • stuartl||

    Who brought up Trump?

  • Zeb||

    Look I don't come here to play rhetorical T-ball with fucking ridiculous Trump apologists.
    Then why are you?

  • damikesc||

    Well it is important to parse Trump's monumental lunacy for accuracy.

    So, using your logic, stating "I cannot trust this judge because he is in the KKK" means the exact same as "I cannot trust this judge because he is white".

    I remember when Progs claimed to love nuance.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Wise Latina?

  • sasob||

    Trump said a judge with Mexican heritage can't possibly be impartial. Defamation and racism in one go!

    Well, Tony, you ought to be able to understand that perfectly. I'm certain you'd be one of the first to assert that a black man can't get a fair trial in this country with an all white jury. You'd probably also be the first to assert that your shit doesn't stink either.

  • Ron||

    but he Trump did not link him to murder big difference between name calling and accusations of conspiracy to murder

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Is that accusing Obama of a crime? Didn't think so.

    Palin is not a politician anymore. Defamation standards change as the person is not a public figure.

  • Tony||

    It's accusing him of a high crime, I would think.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    What high crime?

  • damikesc||

    Good question. It must be pretty bad because it is, in Tony's eyes, worse than being blamed for murder.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    No longer being actively engaged as a politician certainly does not mean that Sarah is no longer a public figure.

  • retiredfire||

    "Public figure" or not. Defamation is defamation.
    The Constitution grants the press no freedom above that of the individual in their respective speech.
    If an individual can be found guilty of defamation, without there having to be "actual malice" proven, then the press should be held to the same standard.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Didn't Hillary accuse Obama of not being a Natural Born Citizen?

  • Tony||

    No.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Two supporters of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign reportedly shared the claim that then-rival Barack Obama was not born in the United States and thus was not eligible to be president.
    One was a volunteer in Iowa, who was fired, Clinton's former campaign manager said Friday. The other was Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, according to a former McClatchy Washington Bureau chief.
    Hillary surrogates

  • ||

    No - her surrogates did.

  • Tony||

    Not true, and even if it were, it would not absolve Trump for his many years of being the king of the birthers, which is what you people are pathetically attempting to do.

  • ||

    I don't understand the relationship between Trump's birtherism and Palin's defamation claim. Can you enlighten me?

  • Tony||

    The connection is loveconstitution's unrelenting Trump support, despite Trump's habit of defaming a person on a nearly daily basis. Politicians, parents of dead soldiers, judges, entire races and religions...

    And Palin isn't a "private citizen" in this context just because she is not in office.

  • ||

    So, let me see if I have this right.

    1) Trump is a dick who defames people daily.
    2) Loveconstitution1789 rationalizes Trump's behavior to a degree that is absurd.
    3) Therefore, Sarah Palin is guilty of mass murder.

    Am I understanding your logic?

    Or is your point specifically that loveconstitution1789 is an unreflective partisan just like you?

  • Tony||

    Yes, but I am a reflective partisan aware of the irony that someone as brilliant and independent-minded as I has chosen to be a partisan. And for Democrats for God's sake.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 7:09PM|#
    "Yes, but I am a reflective partisan aware of the irony..."

    You're a slimy, lying, turd-sucking, pathetic excuse for a human being, and your mother should be embarrassed and ashamed you weren't aborted.
    The world would be a better place if you committed suicide tonight.
    Just so I'm not misunderstood regarding your value.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 5:58PM|#
    The connection is loveconstitution's unrelenting Trump support, despite Trump's habit of defaming a person on a nearly daily basis. Politicians, parents of dead soldiers, judges, entire races and religions...
    And Palin isn't a "private citizen" in this context just because she is not in office.


    I never mentioned Trump because this is a story about Palin.

    Sorry, but I don't defame people and if they thought so, they can try and sue me. How do you defame a race? That seems a bit crazy even for you.

    I really get under you skin, don't I? Amazing how the truth and historical information just drives lefties crazy. You cannot escape the truth and history Tony. It will always show how bad the lefties are.

  • ||

    Trump called Obama a foreign-born usurper for the better part of a decade.

    Hey, everyone - let's race to the bottom! 1, 2, 3 . . . GO!

  • Longtobefree||

    *Tony wins!*

  • John C. Randolph||

    Tony started at the bottom, and he's been digging ever since.

    -jcr

  • ||

    How is that defamation?

  • damikesc||

    Trump called Obama a foreign-born usurper for the better part of a decade.

    Sounds like normal Tony-Democrat butthurt.

  • Jerryskids||

    In order to prove defamation, you have to prove that people relied on or might have relied on the false information. When's the last time you ever relied on a single word that came out of the NYT? The NYT's "defamation" carries about as much weight as me accusing you of assassinating Abraham Lincoln - it's not defamation if no reasonable person could possibly believe it to be true.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That is not always an element of defamation depending on the jurisdiction. That tends to show damage to reputation.

    Key elements are knowingly false printed or spoken words that harm a person's reputation, usually requiring other people see or hear the statements. Malice can be an aggravating factor.

  • TW||

    Reliance on the false statement isn't an element under New York law. You might be thinking of fraud which is a different tort altogether.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The NYT did not intend to drag Palin through the mud intentionally. They did it because they were intellectualy lazy, credulous hacks, who do not know what they do not know.

  • Alsø alsø wik||

    Remember that "actual malice" is a term of art that includes reckless disregard. For which the judge seems to have a awfully strict definition. He basically ruled that absent Palin proving that Bennet had seen a specific rebuttal of a feverish lie, that regurgitating the feverish lie is not reckless disregard. That he can print anything he saw on twitter as long as he didn't receive a notarized debunking of the rumor.

    Meaning that he'd also be free, today, to write that the Duke 3 raped Crystal Mangum because that's how the NYT framed the story when it first broke.

  • ||

    Doesn't absolve them.

    Worse even.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    As a legal matter, it does, and it's not.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It would be if the incompetence defense damaged the editor and the Times reputation as a responsible and professional newsource in genersl public's view and in journslism circles, but it wil disappear down the memory hole during the next round of journalists whingeing how terrible it is that the public does not trust them.

  • ||

    Boy, what a day for Mr. Buttplug to be absent. His queen has momentarily regained relevance, and we're without his trenchant insights.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think most of the people who have an opinion about the NYT or Sarah Palin have that opinion for a reason, the ones who don't have an opinion have a reason for that as well. You figure one side was lying then and obviously still lying now and one side was exposing evil then and still exposing evil now or you have only a vague idea who either the NYT or Sarah Palin is and don't care enough to learn more. In any case, I'm pretty sure saying nasty shit about Sarah Palin didn't change anybody's opinion about either Sarah Palin or the NYT. It's gotta be something pretty outrageously egregious to merit a figurative smack in the mouth and this is just the usual crap flung by people whose pretense at impartial dedication to the objective truth has been pretty damn threadbare for at least the last 50 years.

  • XM||

    The NYT also tripped all over themselves to absolve the Houston mayor of any blame in urging people in Houston NOT to evacuate, even though everyone accurately predicted which areas would be hit and a partial evacuation was more than appropriate.

    If I knew 15 trillion gallons of water would hit my side of town, I would flee first and worry about traffic jams later.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Shelter in place = victim soup

  • SIV||

    The Times thus managed to feign evenhandedness even while suggesting that right-wing rhetoric is more vicious than left-wing rhetoric and more clearly implicated in violence.

    Coincidentally, at exactly the same time the NYTs published Robby Soave!

    My first op-ed for @nytimes : A text message isn't a murder weapon, and pretending otherwise could have consequences
  • Africanis||

    Man, I feel so bad now, I trusted the New York times! I have now lost all faith in humanity, how could those liberal lying douchebags do such a thing.

  • Trigger Warning||

    The Fourth Estate is less Pemberley and more Camelot, hm?

  • Longtobefree||

    Judge Jed Rakoff's ruling pretty much establishes that there can never be 'actual malice' if any other courts uses his definition.

    Does this fit in with Hillary's "extreme carelessness"? Does that almost a standard apply only to lefties?
    (Full disclosure; I am left-handed, but not a leftie for the purposes of a republic.)

  • Ecoli||

    If I actually read the NYT, which I don't, I would assume they are lying, especially about politics. Same with CNN, WaPo, etc. They were caught red-handed colluding with the DNC and Hillary to rig the 2016 election. Journalists,generally, are a pack of glib cretins.

    That is the defining characteristic about credibility, once lost it is very difficult to regain.

  • Tony||

    The fact that some fat propagandist somewhere has you refusing to consult any mainstream sources of information about current events makes you their victim and the country your victim.

  • MasterThief||

    The latter part of that is a somewhat fair point if the former assertion is true. I read NYT, WaPo, etc. in part to get the liberal take on news stories and come to sites like this to get other sides of the story. While I've always found NYT and WaPo to be heavily biased to the left, they have seemingly abandoned most journalistic standards since the beginning of the presidential campaign. NYT, WaPo, and an increasingly rabid CNN now spend more time and energy creating left-wing propaganda instead of accurately reporting events. It's not subtle and there is an increasing number of people on the left (including some from those sources) who are raising the alarm about the negative effects of this bias.

  • Tony||

    Ah the good old days when the NYT was bashed by the left for starting the Iraq War. I too get my news and opinion from a variety of sources, and no one can say I don't given the time I spend here. But we must distinguish between opinion and news, and I don't know how the straight reporting of the NYT or WashPost can be characterized as consistently partisan or ideologically biased. It is sort of a fact that the president is an out of control landfill fire.

  • Ecoli||

    Tony, I assume you mean Limbaugh. I haven't listened to his show in years.

    The Wikileaks dump documenting the collusion between the left media and Hillary's campaign, as well as the "Journolist" conspiracy among main stream journalists is enough to convince me that they can't be trusted. Now add in the fact that most of these journalists are younger than 40 and have no experience in the real world besides navel gazing and circle jerking in their intellectual echo chamber.

    I know you are convinced that we in the middle are all just sheep following "Faux news". That got Trump elected, and it will get him reelected.

  • Tony||

    Re: Horseshit conspiracy theories worthy of a five year-old: That's exactly what I'm talking about. You limit the sources of information you gather. Why do you do that? Because the sources you trust told you to. Just think about that for a while. I have no problem reading right-wing bullshit, because bullshit has no power over me. There are such things as standards of objectivity. Don't like one article's slant, find the same news elsewhere. Consider the source. You learn this in middle school.

    Re: Most journalists are liberal. Yes, because liberals value journalism. Conservatives or whatever the hell you are mangle journalism to suit your preconceived ideological ends. Most journalists are liberals for the same reason most scientists are liberals, because most smart people are liberals.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 9:27PM|#
    "Re: Horseshit conspiracy theories worthy of a five year-old:"
    Tell us about the Russkis again, oh tin-foil hat.
    ----------------------
    "Re: Most journalists are liberal."
    Yes, very fashionable and we know libs are nothing if not fashionable. And liars.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You limit yourself to leftist propaganda and that is what you get. Hence the echo chamber.

    Most Libertarians and conservatives get their news from very limited conservative media choices. So there is naturally information that you see from the left and right. This gives you a sounding board for the BS and there is a lot out there.

    Liberals might tell themselves that they value journalism but they really value propaganda and that is what they put out. Its clear in all the skewing that is done to push a leftist point.

    The fact that you think liberals are smart people as a group, really reinforces that you lefties live in a fantasy land. These supposed smart people ignore centuries of history and socialist "mistakes" of murder and destruction, but you keep pushing that lefty agenda.

  • Tony||

    That is quite possibly the most confused, drug-addled, nonsense post I have had the displeasure of reading in my life. May god have mercy on your soul.

  • retiredfire||

    You are a self-proclaimed liberal.
    That means you don't believe in God, nor that there should be any mercy extended to those who don't believe as you do.
    So, spare us the crap.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Most journalists are liberals for the same reason most scientists are liberals, because most smart people are liberals.

    LOL--most journalists aren't liberals because they're "smart"--anyone reading journalism today would be hard-pressed to discern intelligence in their writing.

    Most journalists are liberals because they're gossipy busy-bodies.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Horseshit conspiracy theories?

    You can read the documents in the wikileaks dump yourself. There's no 'conspiracy theory'--they're right there in the open.

    Now.

    Most journalists are liberal because manipulating information and controlling information sources is on page one of the liberal playbook--'truth is that which serves the revolution'.

  • AZ Gunowner||

    Careful, you're "triggering" me.

    Oh, sorry, forgot, it is not "hate speech" when "your side" does it.

  • retiredfire||

    No, liberalism is a mental disorder, but most mentally ill people don't realize that is what they are.
    You prove the point.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So howcum the DemoGOP keeps splitting over 90% of the votes allegedly cast?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Amazing that these people throw a hissy fit over Russian collusion ®™.

    I wonder how long before these people start blaming the Judenvolk ®™

  • SeaBee||

    Truly bizarre decision. The Times only needs to claim that they didn't know the truth and the case is dismissed? Is it possible that the Times may be stretching the truth in a self serving matter? It seems like the level of ignorance is a factual issue for the jury.

    Reminds me of the Kids in Hall skit where the defense counsel pleads not guilty on behalf of his client--therefore the judge immediately dismisses the case.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Bennet's version said "the link to political incitement was clear" and "direct," ...

    He insisted he "did not intend to imply a causal link" between the map and the Tucson shooting...

    Technically he didn't "imply" a causal link. He pretty much came right out and said it.

  • Tony||

    "Obama pals around with terrorists."

    --Some asshole probably

  • John C. Randolph||

    More like he was mentored by Ayers, but you'll just pretend that never happened, right?

    -jcr

  • Tony||

    I don't have to pretend, lying hypocrite.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 7:19PM|#
    "I don't have to pretend, lying hypocrite."

    Right, you slimy piece of shit. Your lying and flat making things up will do just fine.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|8.30.17 @ 7:11PM|#
    "Obama pals around with terrorists."

    Obo supports racist preacher, turd-sucker.

  • Longtobefree||

    The decision is not an embarrassment to the New York Times.
    To be embarrassed, you have to have some kind of moral base that you violate. (my definition)
    Embarrassment - The world according to Wiktionary:
    1. A state of discomfort arising from bashfulness or consciousness of having violated a social rule.
    Does not apply, NYT does not acknowledge social rules
    2. A state of confusion arising from hesitation or difficulty in choosing.
    Does not apply, NYT does not hesitate for a New York minute in choosing the left
    3. A group of pandas; the collective noun for pandas.
    does not apply, but is a new fact to me

  • Earth Skeptic||

    I like the idea of a group of pandas writing the NYT editorials.

  • Rich||

    "What we have here," Rakoff writes, "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 failure to communicate."

    FTFY

  • Texasmotiv||

    +50 eggs

  • sasob||

    For egg-sucking judges and/or journalists? Uh....yesss.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I still think voters should pay close attention to everything the commie Dems and God's Own Prohibitionists say about each other--and remember them on election day.

  • Sugarsail||

    People don't read the newspaper to be informed, they read the newspaper to have their bias confirmed. The media is little more than holy scripture for the religion of liberalism.

    These media outlets are masters of appealing to groupthink, sensationalism and hate while riding the legal line of defamation. One day they'll cross it and be sued until they bleed money so bad that they'll be forced to start to think a bit more about the ethics and objectivity of what they print.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good sum up.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    The same could and should be said about Fox News and talk radio as bias confirmation for the right. Probably just as true for libertarian news outlet(s) and their readers. In reality, there's a lot of money to be had in the business of confirmation bias because it's human nature to feed off of it.

  • Cyto||

    Bennet testified that he was surprised to hear readers had interpreted what he wrote to mean that Sarah Palin had blood on her hands. He insisted he "did not intend to imply a causal link" between the map and the Tucson shooting, which is hard to believe.

    I saw his quote and I was taken aback as well. There is no other possible interpretation of his words. He not only intended to imply a causal link, he clearly intended that everyone believe that it is obvious and well established as common knowledge.

    the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin's political action committee [SarahPAC] circulated a map

    In fact the link was nonexistent. The guy was insane and obsessed with his target - stalker style.

    With testimony like that, I'm surprised the judge was so sympathetic. Perhaps it was because Palin wasn't the intended target of the slander, it was conservatives and conservative pundits. Otherwise, you expect that their singularly unapologetic apologies would have pushed the court toward the plaintiff's position..

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    With testimony like that, I'm surprised the judge was so sympathetic.

    The judge in this case was a leftist Clinton appointee, so you shouldn't have been surprised.

  • gclancy51||

    Articles like this are why I come to reason.

  • Bra Ket||

    What we have here," Rakoff writes, "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.

    Not saying I like these speech laws, but this sounds more like a propaganda statement from a spin doctor than an objective assessment of what was done.

  • damikesc||

    I'm sorry, but the ruling is BS. If he asked to have the commentary looked at, he would've been advised of the retraction.

  • Mickey Rat||

    You do not understand, he and his researcher are just that bad at basic journalism.

  • damikesc||

    I just don't buy "shit at job" as a viable defense.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I do not like it either, but it I do find it amusing for someone to say they are too crap to held responsible for spreading incorrect information.

  • Tony||

    What's Sarah Palin's excuse?

  • damikesc||

    For the op-ed where she claimed somebody was responsible for a murder?

    Can you link to said op-ed?

  • retiredfire||

    Hey, Jim Comey's FBI declared that the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS was just incompetence by low-level employees, and incompetence is not against the law.
    Te left uses that excuse all the time to avoid consequences.

  • damikesc||

    He wrote Palin DIRECTLY incited the Giffords attack.

  • RogerNorthup||

    New York Times masthead slogan suggestion instead of "All The News That's Fit to Print": "If We Ain't Lyin', We Ain't Tryin".

  • Galane||

    The intent of publishing a lie that causes trouble for a person, ought to be a punishable offense. Whether outright falsehood or deliberate omission of specific factual information, the intent to cause *any degree of harm* is clear simply by publishing the lie.

    NBC should have been hit with a huge fine for broadcasting a version of Zimmerman's 911 call which they edited to make him sound like a racist, and for using old pictures of a much younger Martin, and old photos of Zimmerman in an orange jumpsuit from some years prior when he was arrested for something minor.

    Their *clear intent* was to cause *any kind of harm* to Zimmerman by depicting him as a violent, racist, killer of a small, 12 year old boy, going by the old photos they used.

    If it can be proven that the initial incorrect reporting was not intentional, by repeating errors from another source, the correction should be required to be given equal prominence - along with where the incorrect information was sourced.

    If after being informed they've published a lie like that, the newspaper, TV or radio station refuses to publish a correction, then they should be held liable and fined.

    There wouldn't be any "chilling effect", except on the media making shit up just to cause harm and turmoil they can then report on.

  • BohdanUke1||

    I can't believe most of the commenters are engaged in a game of mental gymnastics. All I see is how far removed from basic common sense most of you are. Command of verbal fluency should inform succinct understanding and knowledge of a subject. Unfortunately, the comments have devolved into verbal diarrhea.

  • MaleMatters||

    Dear Reason Editors:

    The NY Times folk can't be embarrassed.

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