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Claytoonz: Sarah Palin, schmuck amuck

It’s weird how Republicans claim they love the United States Constitution, refer to themselves as “constitutionalists,” yet hate press freedom and do everything in their power to destroy it. The Supreme Court has affirmed the right to a free press time and time again, yet Republicans like Donald Trump have argued to limit press freedom, if not outright destroy it.

Donald Trump once said “It’s frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever they want to write. People should look into it.” Trump believes a free press is disgusting. The man who told more than 25,000 lies as president has often referred to legitimate news outlets as “fake news” and has called journalists the “enemies of the American people.” Fascists hate a free press and they’re the ones “looking into it.”

If you want to know what press coverage is like in a nation that doesn’t have a free press, take a look at the questions the state media in China have been asking during the Olympics. While western reporters ask about Peng Shui and why it took six weeks for Kamila Valieva’s positive drug tests to come to light, Chinese reporters were asking about the athletes’ favorite dishes and how many roast ducks would be served.

China’s press questioning Chinese government officials is like watching Donald Trump being interviewed by a goon from Fox News. How many roast ducks has Donald Trump tried to flush down a toilet?

But it’s not because of libel that Sarah Palin’s image is in the toilet. The reason Sarah Palin’s image and reputation are in the toilet is that she’s an idiot and a raging lunatic.

Sarah Palin sued The New York Times for defamation but failed to prove her case. The Supreme Court set a standard in 1964 in New York Times v. Sullivan that public figures, which Sarah Palin is, have to prove “actual malice.” A public figure must prove a defamatory statement was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” 

Reporters and news outlets make mistakes all the time. The most reliable news outlets in the world make mistakes, and then they own them, issue corrections, and do not cover them up. A news outlet is NOT supposed to report something they know is false, like Fox News did when they reported that those attacking the Capitol building were antifa, Democrats, and the FBI, and when they reported Dominion voting machines were corrupted.

Palin claims her reputation was damaged by the Times editorial bearing the headline “America’s Lethal Politics” that incorrectly linked her to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that nearly killed then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.

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The Times quickly published a correction saying “no such link was established” and the editor then in charge of that section, James Bennet, issued a public apology.

Palin failed to prove the Times knowingly published false information. Her case was initially thrown out in 2017, but a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court in Manhattan reinstated it in 2019 saying the judge should have given Palin’s team more time to obtain emails and other evidence that might help their case.

The judge dismissed her suit while the jury was deliberating. The jury did come back with a ruling in favor of the Times.

Palin didn’t just fail to prove the Times knowingly published false information, but she also failed to explain how she was damaged. During the trial, she didn’t want footage of her Masked Singer performance to be shown as she was afraid it’d cause “unfair prejudice and confusion” in the jury. Unfortunately for Sarah Palin, the public has been prejudiced about her being a moron long before her Masked Singer appearance because she is a moron.

Palin probably expected to lose and just wanted to establish a narrative that the Times was sloppy and you can’t trust a free press. It joins the constant attacks from Donald Trump. She probably didn’t lose any money in this suit as it was probably bankrolled by billionaire goons. She had the same lawyers who argued Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker (who published a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife), which was funded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, a….wait for it…Donald Trump supporter. Thiel was seeking revenge on Gawker for outing him as gay. So, who bankrolled Palin’s lawsuit against the Times? Also, whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on your wife? How does a person get over that?

Press freedom lives another day…for now. An appeal by Palin would have to go through at least one more court before it could reach the Supreme Court, but if it gets there, things can get dicey for American journalism. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has expressed interest in revisiting the Sullivan case and Clarence Thomas has outright stated he would vote against upholding that landmark decision. Can those two goons get three more justices to go along with them to destroy press freedom…thus freedom of speech?

Here’s the thing, kids: Press freedom doesn’t belong to liberals or conservatives. It belongs to everyone. Free speech is a Constitutional right and if you try to kill it because someone said something you don’t like, you’re not just killing it for your enemies. You’ll be killing it for yourself.

But then again, people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are dumbasses.

And in Sarah Palin’s case, she’s just Daffy.

Creative note: The second panel of this cartoon is based on Duck Amuck, an animated Merrie Melodies short written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones. In the cartoon, Daffy Duck is being tormented by his animator (spoiler alert) who is revealed at the end to be Bugs Bunny. Much like Bugs, I too am a stinker.

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Music Note: Today’s tooning tunes were from The Killers, The Ting Tings, The Shins, and Silverchair.

Clay Jones is the 2022 recipient of the RFK Human Rights Journalism Award in Editorial Cartooning, and won a 2021 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was a finalist for the Herblock Prize in 2019 and a finalist for the National Headliner Award in 2020. See more award-winning editorial cartoons from him at Claytoonz.com.

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