With all the news of war and turmoil and PR crises based on harassment allegations in the news these days, you can be forgiven for forgetting that former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is locked in a vicious legal tilt with the New York Times.
The lawsuit stems from a political editorial this past summer that linked an ad created by Palin’s SuperPAC and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011. That shooting, at an Arizona campaign stop, wounded several and killed six.
At the heart of Palin’s case is the idea that the shooter never saw the ad. In fact, the editorial in question never put out any evidence that he had. Because of this, the Times issued a correction the following day. But, Palin says, the PR damage was done. She sued the Times.
The case wound its way through the system until a federal judge dismissed the defamation case against the paper. That ruling was not nearly good enough for Palin, who is appealing the decision to the US Court of Appeals.
Palin’s attorneys are arguing that the Times “conduct was committed knowingly, intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and maliciously, with the intent to harm Mrs. Palin, or in blatant disregard of the substantial likelihood of causing her harm, thereby entitling Mrs. Palin to an award of punitive damages…”
Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, the story has become a political barometer for the public. Those who support Palin are predisposed to be suspicious of the Times, and those that support the times, are generally critical of Ms. Palin. It’s not a clear-cut delineation, and you can bet those aren’t the arguments that are made, however.
On one side, you will have people demanding more responsible journalism. On the other side, you will have people saying they’re defending freedom of speech. The judge who dismissed the case originally, justified his ruling this way:
“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.”
That statement, too, is open to interpretation, and you can bet people are “interpreting” it to their heart’s content. The judge’s comments have faced the gauntlet of talk radio and social media arguments. Some say his statements give the media too much leeway. Others argue that everyone is human, so you can’t criminalize honest errors.
Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess, but you can take one thing to the bank: It’s not over yet.