A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, finding that Palin failed to show that the paper acted "maliciously" in publishing an editorial that included incorrect information about a pro-Palin political action committee.
"Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States", Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in an opinion dismissing the case.
Palin sued the Times for defamation after an editorial in the newspaper on mass shootings tied an ad run by the former vice presidential nominee to the 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.).
No evidence ever emerged to show Loughner ever saw or was inspired by the ad. After editors at the Times learned about inaccurate information in the editorial - the original version also incorrectly described what the map looked like - they issued corrections. In lamenting the role of violent political rhetoric in stimulating such acts, the editorial cited the Giffords shooting. "Thus, The Times knowingly and voluntarily exploited and retained a benefit conferred by Mrs. Palin, in special circumstances particular to this case in which it would be inequitable for The Times to retain that benefit without paying the value thereof to Mrs. Palin".
But he noted that "public figures who seek damages for defamatory statements must, however, do more than prove that the statements about them were false".
Rakoff wrote that Palin's "complaint fails on its face to adequately allege actual malice, because it fails to identify any individual who possessed the requisite knowledge and intent and, instead, attributes it to the Times in general".
Palin's legal team did not immediately return a request for comment.
A cornerstone of USA libel law since the 1960's, the "actual malice" standard requires public figures to show defendants knew what they published was false or showed a reckless disregard for the truth.
The judge wrote that the language in the editorial could be viewed by a "reasonable reader" to be about Palin herself.
The Times corrected the editorial. Palin claims it was defamation, but the judge did not believe it was quite that serious.