Sarah Palin lost both the jury verdict and the judge’s ruling in her defamation case against The New York Times but in the glass house of Fox News, she’s a winner.
Yesterday, after the judge announced he’d dismiss Palin’s case if the jury found in her favor, Fox’s Howard Kurtz declared she had won “in the court of public opinion.”
Today, after a jury decided against her, Kurtz dropped that claim but made it clear he thought she deserved to win, even if the law was against her.
KURTZ: Even the judge said The New York Times had done many things wrong. Even The New York Times admitted this was a colossal error to accuse the former governor of Alaska of political incitement in that Arizona shooting, the mass shooting in 2011. So, there was a lot of evidence here of journalistic malpractice but according to the law we’ve been talking about, and Sarah Palin clearly a public figure, the jury couldn’t just say, well, this is really bad, it’s a bad mistake, therefore we’re finding for Palin. It wasn’t able – Palin’s side was never able to show malice, reckless disregard. The correction the next day online I think probably helped The New York Times’ case but it has been a black eye for the Times, even though the Times has clearly won this round.
Next, Fox’s Emily Compagno looked forward to Palin or some other case going up to the Supreme Court and making it easier to win such cases. She and her pals at Fox were probably rubbing their hands together thinking of how Palin might put the Times and the rest of the so-called “liberal media” out of business:
COMPAGNO: Keep in minds this is on the heels of a few other defamation suits across the country where people have wondered which case is it that will end up, if there is one, before the U.S. Supreme Court where this “actual malice” standard might be deconstructed. We’ve had a few comments by sitting justices in their opinions or in their concurring opinions and also dissents, where they’ve sort of touched on this perhaps, saying maybe this protection should be eroded a little bit. Maybe that standard being so high, maybe that protection of newspapers, of editorials for the impact on public figures – maybe that has to go.
So while at this moment, this case seems maybe over, I think we have, frankly, a longer future ahead of us and it actually might have historical implications.
Kurtz agreed. He noted that the high standard protects journalists from getting intimidated or put out of business by very wealthy people “because everybody makes mistakes.”
But poor Palin – who, let’s not forget is a vicious liar (not to mention a deliberate spreader of COVID) whose PAC published material with what looked like rifle cross-hairs over 20 Democratic districts (the genesis of the Times story at issue) – is the big victim here.
KURTZ: On the other hand, if you’re Sarah Palin, who testified that she was devastated and couldn’t sleep at night after this Times editorial making this horrible, false charge against her, you would think – there’s a counterargument that she would be entitled to some redress. I think if it gets to the high court, there may not be the votes to overturn it now but I think a lot of thinking is moving in that direction because it does render it almost impossible except in the most egregious cases, where you had emails or notes of somebody saying, “I can’t stand that person,” to win a verdict of this type, which is why it was always a long shot for Sarah Palin.
Co-anchor John Roberts chimed in: “The bottom line here though is this was not a mistake.”
Co-anchor Sandra Smith slathered on the Palin victimhood.
SMITH: You know, John, I was just digging through her testimony from the trial where she described herself as feeling powerless as a result of the editorial. “It was devastating to read,” she said, again an accusation, a false accusation that had anything to do with murder, murdering innocent people, she said, “and I felt powerless.”
Well, be careful what you wish for, Foxies. Because right now your network is dealing with two billion-dollar lawsuits over its Big Lies about the 2020 election. And given the amount of lies, falsehoods and disinformation that go on there (including painting the vicious Palin as a snowflakey victim), you guys could be the first to fall.
And by the way, I'd love to know who's funding Palin's lawsuit.
You can watch Fox turn Palin into a liberal-media martyr below, from the February 14, 2022 The Story with Martha MacCallum, via Crooks and Liars, and the February 15, 2022 America Reports, via Fox News.
I note that nothing in Durham’s update says anything about Hillary Clinton being involved or even knowing about this bit of normal procedure as it was happening. Nothing in the update says anything about anyone being arrested or indicted for this. Nothing in the update gives any indication of anything more than a little more background information around Durham’s discussion of one man, Michael Sussmann, who has been charged with lying to the FBI. Sussmann disputes this and says he believes Durham is trying to “inflame media coverage” with what looks like a gratuitous mention that does not carry any charges. The mention of the pings is in a subsection of the update and it’s indicated that this area has been looked at and is already in the rear view mirror.
So we have Durham issuing an update with a bit of tech-wonk detail which basically says he has no further charges or indictments at this time. That’s it. Except that angry Right Wingers are having a week where they need something, anything to get attention away from actual news events they’d prefer you didn’t notice. Such as the Pence White House failing to prevent the January 6 Committee from gaining access to their papers. And the spectacular revelation that Pence’s childish former spokesman regularly tried to conceal classified documents (including his theft of 15 boxes of such materials and his transport of the stolen goods to
Mar-a-lago) and to destroy other classified materials by tearing them up and/or flushing them down the White House toilets. And then we have this week’s bombshell – that the Trump organization’s longtime accountants are running, not walking away from the Trumps, including the accountants publicly stating that Trump’s financials are fraudulent, and the accountants turning over what look like hundreds of thousands of papers to the New York Attorney General. And that’s without getting into all the fraudulent schemes being regularly uncovered about how angry Right Wing Trump supporters attempted to overturn the 2020 Election in various ways, including the assembly of illegitimate “electors” for states that they lost.
Given that, it’s clear why angry Right Wingers want to push their latest Durham “bombshell”. It’s partly the usual reason – putting out a vague threat to everyone that angry Right Wingers want their revenge for all the Mueller indictments and both impeachments of Pence’s childish former spokesman. (And we can absolutely expect the GOP to attempt to do a revenge impeachment of President Biden and possibly of VP Harris should they retake the Congressional majorities in November) But it’s mostly to give them something to repeatedly shout while clapping their hands over their ears so they don’t hear the actual news.
The Durham update is absolutely not “Way Worse Than Watergate” by any means. Durham’s update is about DOJ procedure and progress in a minor and disputed case of one man who may or may not have said something untrue to the FBI. As opposed to the Trump Campaign and Pence White House minions who were caught red-handed in all kinds of criminal behavior and then pleaded their cases down to just misleading the FBI so they could get lighter prison time. Or the matter of the Watergate scandal, where angry Right Wingers in the Nixon White House were caught in multiple illegal acts, after the exposure of their burglary of the DNC HQ and their attempts to plant bugs. The Watergate “plumbers” were not involved in a DOJ investigation into foreign interference and computer hacks – they were simple burglars who got caught. (I note that angry Right Wingers repeatedly tried to dismiss the Watergate scandal back in the day, and some are continuing that propaganda even today. John O’Connor has made a cottage industry of trying to change the Watergate narrative and rewrite the history into one that Right Wingers can tell their kids rather than the truth – and he’s part of the new push to reframe Watergate and attack Hillary Clinton. I also note that angry Right Wingers with money made sure to reward the Watergate burglars for their “service” – for example, G. Gordon Liddy made millions and enjoyed celebrity status for decades after his imprisonment.)
But angry Right Wingers are hoping you won’t know any of that. And they’re hoping that they can intimidate and bully their enemies by threatening them with “execution” based on nothing. We should not take this lightly. If the GOP retake Congress this November, we must expect them to initiate revenge actions. And if an angry Right Wing GOP man retakes the White House in 2024 with angry Right Wing majorities in Congress, things could get far worse. We already saw what could happen when Fox News pundits had their way in the Pence White House as well as the W/Cheney disaster of the 2000s. The damage done by the epic deliberate mismanagement intended to prove “government can’t get anything done”, by the fumbling of a deadly pandemic, by all the emboldening of bigotry and hatred. At this point, Fox News is rushing to catch up to the farthest rightward fringe nonsense from web outlets like Newsmax. What happens when US policy is driven by Newsmax? Will we recognize this country after that?
(I note that many angry Right Wing media outlets are spending today observing a holiday of remembrance for Limbaugh since his death was one year ago on Feb 17th. One would think Limbaugh was some kind of saint with the way these pundits are lionizing him. As opposed to the actual person he was – a small, petulant, immature, insecure man who lashed out at everyone and everything he did not understand, and who emboldened his listeners and copycats to indulge their vicious bigotry to the hilt. In so doing, he enriched himself with millions of Right Wing media dollars, thanks to Reagan’s handlers having erased the Fairness Doctrine. (Before then, his situation would have been appropriately similar to cranks like Wally George) And beyond enriching himself, Limbaugh’s visceral nastiness poisoned public discourse and paved the way for Fox News, its copycats, the miserable epoch of the Pence White House, and the continuing retreat by angry Right Wingers into their bubble of Denial. I would argue that February 17th should be observed as a repudiation of Limbaugh’s viciousness, and I continue to press for the Presidential Medal of Freedom to be redesignated with all recipients but Limbaugh, Nunes, Jordan and Harvey grandfathered into the new iteration so that the next Maya Angelou does not need to share the stage with the likes of them.)
It’s entirely possible that Ginni Thomas has been trying to fund these SLAPP suits, but one would think they’d need to be careful about her involvement if they don’t want that to go public and blow up on them. If a SLAPP suit she funded and led was then taken up by the Supreme Court and upheld to destroy a newspaper like the NYT, we’d be looking at a completely unrecognizable judiciary. If angry Right Wingers can rig cases and game the system to erase our rights and personally destroy their enemies, we really will have a crisis that could upend the democracy. Granted, we have already seen major moves here, what with the packing of the courts, especially the SC, and with the cultivation of cases like Dobbs and Janus to specifically erase rights that Americans have long thought were established and past challenge.
Regarding the Dominion defamation suits, those actually are the model of how that litigation needs to function. The purpose of anti-defamation protections is to make sure that individuals and businesses are not ruined by people making knowingly false statements. Those protections were not meant to be hijacked by angry Right Wingers who don’t like being called out and criticized for their bad behavior. Showing the Palin PAC ad with the gunsights/crosshairs is not defamation. Showing video of Nicholas Sandmann and his buddies behaving with smug racism toward Native Americans is not defamation. Those are simple matters of reportage. On the other hand, Fox News and other angry Right Wing propaganda outlets knowingly pushing lies about Dominion supposedly stealing the US presidential election and supposedly working for Hugo Chavez is very much a classic case of defamation. Granted, the Right Wing lies were born from a desperation to deny the fact that they lost the election in a humiliating way, and from a need to tell Pence’s childish former spokesman what he wants to hear – that the election was somehow “illegitimate”. But the effect of those lies has been to cause very real problems for Dominion, and Dominion needs that record corrected. There is a reason that even the noxious web outlet Newsmax jumped on its hosts to stop pushing the Dominion story – they’re aware that this is a case that has sharp teeth for them.
I’m still in back pain hell and it saps both my energy and concentration. Plus, I’ve been working on a detailed post about a pal of Dr. Oz for C&L. I finally finished it tonight, probably to be published tomorrow.
So I’m hoping to be able to renew effort on Durham Thursday. I’ve gotten some new ’splainers to check out that seem promising.
The big question in my mind is who is paying for Palin’s suit and the even bigger question is whether Ginni (Mrs. Clarence) Thomas is somehow involved.
In other words, is there enough money to drive this case all the way to the Supreme Court or will the righties wait for a better one?
Meanwhile, of course, the billion-dollar defamation cases against Fox by Dominion and Smartmatic are chugging along. As I understand it, THEY have strong cases.
It wasn’t that long ago that angry Right Wing pundits on Fox and AM radio were regularly inveighing against citizens who took civil action against corporations and Right Wing personalities who behaved badly. When a woman was badly burned by fast food coffee and took her grievance to court, Right Wingers were apoplectic that she could dare to sue a company for knowingly serving wildly overheated beverages at a drive-thru window. Right Wing pols and pundits clamored for “tort reform”, which translates to greatly limiting damage awards and thus shielding bad actors from the consequences of their misdeeds. When liberals announced boycotts of companies doing business with unrepentant bigots like Rush Limbaugh or apartheid states like the former South Africa, Right Wingers attempted to shame the protestors.
But somewhere in the past decade, angry Right Wingers have turned 180 degrees. Suddenly, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and others were urging their viewers to stop buying Coca Cola or whatever company they thought was supporting their enemies. (And simultaneously they were denying that they supported boycotts, presumably since they figured their viewers would not be able to process the contradiction…)
And while the boycott adoption was opportunistic, the sudden adoption of SLAPP litigation as a strategy was born from outright viciousness. Sarah Palin was not the first nor the last to try it.
The usual scenario has involved an angry Right Wing figure caught behaving badly. With Palin, there was the blatant fanning of Right Wing violent anger toward Dems, with a particular emphasis on guns. Palin was fully aware of the message she was sending when she put gunsights on Dems she hoped to get out of office. When Gabby Giffords was then shot and the gunsight ad came to light, Palin was appropriately criticized. A few years later, a NYT article brought up the situation again and incorrectly stated a direct connection to the shooting. Within a day, the NYT corrected the article, and its central point – that gunsights over your opponents are unacceptable in civil discourse – stood. Palin’s response was to sue for damages – even though she suffered no damages, and if anything, actually parlayed the situation into more notoriety for herself.
We’ve seen the same nuisance suit approach from multiple angry Right Wing would-be bullies – everyone from Eric Bolling to Nicholas Sandmann to Devin Nunes to Pence’s childish former spokesman. It’s almost always the same playbook. Someone like Bolling gets caught wildly sexually harassing his co-workers, and the situation gets reported. The perpetrator then doubles and triples down by suing the journalist or the newspaper or both for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. And then propaganda outlets like Breitbart or Fox cheerlead the litigation in the hope of seeing their enemies bankrupted. And if they lose as in the Palin case, or they only see peanuts as in the Sandmann case, they fall back on the Supreme Court threat. The problem now is that this threat is very real, thanks to the GOP’s packing of our judiciary and our Supreme Court with Far Far Right Wing idealogues who may just give their benefactors what they want. Beware of any such SC case if Samuel Alito writes the opinion…