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Sarah Palin's lawsuit against the New York Times is over - here's why

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Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's lawsuit against the New York Times was dismissed Tuesday. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

The defamation lawsuit by former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin against the New York Times has been thrown out of court because the presiding judge said Palin's legal team simply didn't prove the newspaper acted out of malice against her.

"Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States," said Federal Judge Jed Rakoff. "In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made, some of which will be hurtful to others."

The New York Times was nearly universally condemned in June for an opinion piece by the editorial board that claimed Jared Lee Lougher, who attempted to murder then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was animated by map published by Palin allies. The map had what appeared to be gun crosshairs pointing to democrats that were considered political targets.

Even those on the left had to admit that the claim was absurdly spurious, especially when compared to the clearly substantiated link between anti-Republican propaganda and the Virginia GOP shooter, James Hodgkinson. The New York Times irresponsibly and inexplicably said the link to heated rhetoric was more clear in Palin's case than in Hodgkinson's case.

Palin sued the New York Times for defamation later that month, and sought damages to be determined at trial.

Lawyers for the former vice presidential candidate argued that the New York Times' editor who wrote the piece "displayed a reckless disregard of the facts," and that they had a financial motivation for for smearing Palin's reputation.

The judge sided with the defense, saying they were within their First Amendment rights and that Palin's lawyers had not proven the error was made out of malice.

"Responsible journals will promptly correct their errors; others will not," Judge Rakoff said in his 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, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity."

"Here, plaintiff's complaint, even when supplemented by facts developed at an evidentiary hearing convened by the Court, fails to make that showing," he concluded.

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