[Note: This item comes from friend Geoff Goodfellow. DLH]
The coming crash of the lawless media
By Wesley Pruden
Jun 29 2017
The so-called Sullivan rule, which largely freed the media from pursuit by libel lawyers, is the gold standard in American newsrooms. Gold doesn’t collect tarnish. Nevertheless, thoughtful publishers, editors and libel lawyers warn that when anything goes and irresponsibility is regarded as a virtue, the media will eventually see its checks returned marked “insufficient funds.” It takes a clever man or institution to overdraw an unlimited checking account.
Sniping and rock-throwing at Donald Trump, a game that any number can play and nearly everybody does, has become a game with no rules and no referees, and worse, no editors to restrain obstreperous children breaking up the furniture.
CNN, once a fairly reliable source of news, with a weakness for trivia and given to peddling old news as the new thing, is now an inviting target for imaginative libel lawyers. Three of its most prominent editors and “producers” were sacked this week after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story it made up about a confidant of President Trump, that he and his hedge fund was being investigated by the U.S. Senate for colluding with the Russians for nefarious purpose. Mr. Trump predictably crowed “Fake news!” in his usual capital letters. This time he had a point.
Sarah Palin, once upon a time the Republican candidate for vice president, sued The New York Times this week for accusing her in an editorial of “inciting” the attack on Gabby Giffords, an Arizona congresswoman, that left her gravely wounded and six others dead. The New York Times said in an editorial that Mrs. Palin incited murder, because her political-action committee circulated a map with crosshairs imprinted over the districts of 20 Democratic congressmen targeted for defeat — not death — in the congressional elections of 2012. The newspaper retracted the editorial, without apology, the next day.
The editorial was published June 14, the very day a gunman opened fire on a Republican baseball practice, wounding Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican whip in the House, and several others. The Times tweeted a “sorry” to its readers, but not to Mrs. Palin, and her lawyers noted that the newspaper “violated the law and its own policies” when it accused her of inciting the Giffords shooting.
Inciting a crime is serious business, and in the atmosphere of mayhem created by the left and the liberals in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, anything goes in pursuit of the man whose only proved “crime” so far is having defeated Hillary Clinton. Kathie Griffin’s bloody severed “head” of the president, and Johnny Depp’s call for an assassin to relieve the nation of its duly elected president was an inevitable consequence of seeding the land with toxin and deadly venom.
But winning libel suits against television networks and famous newspapers that have clearly contributed to this atmosphere of lawlessness will not be easy, the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s shield protecting the media from the consequences of even shoddy work.