February 15, 2022

Sarah Palin never had a chance. Not this time around.

But don’t go anywhere, because this thing is not over.

The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate sued The New York Times over a 2017 editorial that incorrectly linked the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Palin’s PAC that showed certain electoral districts under crosshairs.

Palin was angry. She was hurt. And she had every right to be.

The Times editorial board — and, in particular, then-editorial page editor James Bennet — messed up. There was no link. The Times admitted so in a correction less than 12 hours after it published the editorial online.

Still, Palin took her complaints to court, and the weeklong trial showed just how sloppy the Times’ editing process was. Yes, it was shoddy journalism. But was it intentional?

From the start, journalism and legal experts predicted that Palin would run into a major hurdle: proving that the Times acted with “actual malice.” In other words, it would be difficult for Palin to prove the Times intentionally set out to hurt her.

We found out just how difficult Monday when the judge in the case said he would dismiss the suit because Palin’s team had not met the legal standard. While the trial was embarrassing for the Times, it did seem to prove that it almost immediately regretted the error and corrected it as soon as it could.

Thus, it seems as if the judge made the correct decision.

However, here comes a twist: Judge Jed S. Rakoff made his decision while the jury was deliberating and he’s not going to toss the case until after the jury returns with a verdict. The jury began deliberations late Friday, continued into Monday and will pick them up again today.

So why wait?

As The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison wrote, “… since the decision is likely to be appealed — a path that could upend longstanding legal protections for journalists who write about public figures — Rakoff said he wanted future courts to have both his decision and the jury’s to consider.”

The other question is why didn’t Rakoff hold off on announcing his ruling until after the jury came back with a verdict?

“I certainly considered the possibility that I should wait until after the jury had rendered its verdict in this case,” Rakoff said, “but the more I thought about it over the weekend, the more I thought that was unfair to both sides. We’ve had a very full argument on this; I know where I’m coming out.”

Despite ruling in the Times’ favor, Rakoff did not spare the Times, saying in court that he “wasn’t happy” about his decision, but had to follow the law.

Rakoff said, “This is an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times.” He even said that he was “hardly surprised” that Palin sued the Times.

Palin’s attorneys had no comment. A Times spokesperson said, “The New York Times welcomes today’s decision. It is a reaffirmation of a fundamental tenet of American law: public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish or intimidate news organizations that make, acknowledge and swiftly correct unintentional errors.”

So now what?

Regardless of how the jury comes back, expect Palin and her team to appeal. Judge Rakoff even expects it, which is why he ruled to let the jury continue deliberations.

Eventually, this could end up before the Supreme Court, where the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan case could come under scrutiny.

The Times’ Jeremy W. Peters wrote, “A landmark Supreme Court case, The New York Times Company v. Sullivan, established that a public figure like Ms. Palin has to prove that a news organization acted with ‘actual malice’ in publishing false information, meaning it displayed a reckless disregard for the truth or knew it was false.”

Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have indicated that they would be open to reassessing New York Times v. Sullivan. Is the standard to prove malice too high? That’s eventually a question that a court might decide.

But journalists breathed a slight sigh of relief on Monday following Rakoff’s decision to throw out the suit. Journalists loathe making mistakes, but the ruling in the Sullivan case allows for them to make honest mistakes without the fear of being sued.

Eve Burton, the chief legal officer for the Hearst Corp., told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “The ruling is reassuring.”

But this case is not over.


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Tafoya’s next move

NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya wiping tears before leaving the field after Sunday’s Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Well, this comes as no surprise whatsoever. The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch reports that Michele Tafoya is going from football to politics.

Tafoya, a sideline reporter on the NFL for NBC Sports for more than a decade, worked her 327th and final game in Sunday’s Super Bowl. But now, as Deitsch reports, she will be the co-chair of a political campaign for Kendall Qualls, a businessman and Army veteran who wants to be the Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota.

Deitsch wrote, “She said she plans to make herself available to appear on shows that discuss politics and cultural and social issues found in the front of the newspaper. She will also appear in some form at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Orlando in late February.”

In other words, it sounds like she hopes to be seen on Fox News and the like.

Tafoya told Deitsch that leaving NBC Sports was entirely her decision, adding, “I got to a point in my life where I wanted to try other things, and there are some things that are really important to me. This is not to say that sports isn’t an important field, that my job isn’t an important job. But in my position, I was not as free to be as vocal about world events that I’m concerned about. It’s not because I was told to shut up. I want to be very clear about that. But look, if you’re on a show like ‘Sunday Night Football,’ which is the No. 1 show in prime time for 11 straight years, unprecedented, the last thing they want to do is invite controversy.”

Tafoya was involved in a little controversy back in November when she filled in as a guest host on ABC’s “The View.” Her remarks about COVID-19 and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick fell on the right side of the political spectrum, and she was jeered by the audience.

Most sports broadcasts can survive just fine without sideline reporters, although there are a handful who add to the enjoyment of the game and Tafoya certainly falls into that group. The guess is Kathryn Tappen will replace Tafoya on “Sunday Night Football.”

Whoopi’s return

Whoopi Goldberg returned to “The View” on Monday after serving a two-week suspension for comments she made about the Holocaust. On Jan. 31, Goldberg said on the air that the Holocaust was not about race. Despite a public apology, Goldberg was suspended for two weeks.

She opened Monday’s show by saying, “Hello, hello, hello and welcome to ‘The View.’ And yes, I am back.”

After co-host Joy Behar said Goldberg was missed, Goldberg said, “I missed you all, too. I got to tell you, there’s something kind of marvelous about being on a show like this because we are ‘The View’ and this is what we do. Sometimes we don’t do this as eloquently as we could. … I want to thank everybody who reached out while I was away.”

Goldberg did not talk about the specific comments that led to her suspension, but did say, “We’re going to keep having tough conversations. And in part, because this is what we’ve been hired to do and it’s not always pretty, as I said, and it’s not always as other people would like to hear but it is an honor to sit at the table and be able to have these conversations because they’re important, they’re important to us as a nation and to us more as a human … entity.”

Super Bowl leftovers

Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp of the Rams catches a touchdown in Sunday’s game. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sunday’s Super Bowl capped one of the best postseasons in NFL history. Of the final three weekends of play, all seven games were decided by a touchdown or less. Six of the games were decided by a field goal, and the other game was Kansas City’s overtime victory against Buffalo in a game already considered by many to be the greatest playoff game ever.

Sunday’s Super Bowl was not particularly well played and there were a few scratch-your-head coaching moments, but it was close and dramatic because the outcome was still within question in the final minute. TV numbers aren’t expected out until this morning, but predictions are that it could crack 100 million viewers.

NBC’s broadcast and the halftime show are getting good reviews (I mentioned both in a brief recap on Monday.)

Here are some other leftovers from Sunday’s Super Bowl:

Hosting duties

With all that’s going on in the world — a pandemic, political divide, racial divides, etc. — it’s not easy to be a TV host. How do you navigate the precarious landscape, while adding to important conversations?

Washington Post Magazine contributor Anna Peele spoke to Seth Meyers, Andy Cohen, Ziwe, Keke Palmer and Padma Lakshmi for “How Do You Host Television in 2022?”

It’s interesting stuff in a Q&A form.

Ziwe, who hosts a show on Showtime, said, “All I try to do is ask interesting questions and present a strong POV that you, as an audience member, can agree with or disagree with. Both are OK. But I’m not going to be the guiding light in helping you live and determine your life, because I’m not equipped to do that. I can barely do that for myself.”

There are plenty of behind-the-curtain thoughts from the hosts, so check it out.

Media tidbits

Scenes from PBS’s “Frontline” episode called “American Reckoning” (Courtesy: PBS)

  • PBS’s “Frontline” and Retro Report will premiere and begin streaming a powerful documentary tonight called “American Reckoning.” Directors Yoruba Richen and Brad Lichtenstein look at the story involving the civil rights movement and the unsolved murder of a local NAACP leader named Wharlest Jackson. The show will air at 10 p.m. Eastern on most PBS stations. Here’s the trailer.
  • The New Yorker is publishing its first digital-only issue this week based on its popular online series The New Yorker Interviews, which features in-depth conversations with people of note. Some of the interview subjects that will be published this week include rock star Stevie Nicks, “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell, former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet.
  • The New York Times’ Ryan Mac and Lisa Lerer write about former Facebook board member Peter Thiel in “The Right’s Would-Be Kingmaker.”
  • Robert Costa made his first official appearance at CBS News on Monday. Costa, who announced last month that he was leaving The Washington Post for CBS, was on Monday’s “CBS Mornings” and the “CBS Evening News.” He broke down the political stakes of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and offered new reporting on the midterm elections.
  • Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” will host this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. The dinner is set for April 30. Because of COVID-19, this will be the first WHCA dinner since 2019. President Joe Biden is expected to attend, making it the first time since 2016 that the president is there. Donald Trump never attended. Here are the details.
  • For The New York Times, Jack Nicas and Ana Ionova with “Brazil’s Joe Rogan Faces His Own Firestorm Over Free Speech.”
  • Gretchen Day-Bryant has been named managing editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, according to Sun Sentinel editor-in-chief Julie Anderson. She had been the paper’s features editor.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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