During her now 10 month-long media victimization campaign, Sarah Palin has time and again revealed her fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment and Americans' free speech rights. Now as she prepares to exit the Alaska Governor's mansion, her confusion - and thin skin - is again on display.
On the Fourth of July of all days, Palin's lawyer Thomas Van Flein issued a warning that his client would bring defamation claims against bloggers and media alike speculating on rumors of a criminal investigation involving the Governor:
To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those "responsible for the abuse of that right." Alaska Constitution Art. I, Sec. 5. http://ltgov.state.ak.us/... These falsehoods abuse the right to free speech; continuing to publish these falsehoods of criminal activity is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable.
As Moore herself noted regarding her reference on MSNBC to the lingering questions surrounding the construction of the Palin home and the Wasilla sports complex (a story first raised last year by the Wayne Barrett in The Village Voice):
"I haven't defamed the governor, I reported on speculation and rumor in Alaska. ... It's not my rumor; it's been out there for 10 months and the First Amendment protects me," Moore said. "Even if I didn't say it's 'rumors and speculation,' I'm still protected -- I would just lose credibility, which I'm not willing to do."
UPDATE: For its part, as the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, "the FBI's Alaska spokesman said the bureau had no investigation into Palin for her activities as governor, as mayor or in any other capacity."
Which is exactly right. While Van Flein cited the Alaska Constitution's statement that "every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right," the United States Constitution is another matter altogether. As Anchorage attorney Peter Maassen seemed to suggest, Sarah Palin's thin skin is no basis for a credible defamation suit:
"If (Palin) is actually a public figure, which clearly she is, there has to be actual malice involved, in my understanding of defamation law. That would be very hard to prove...It's a very, very high bar if it is a public figure," he said.
And regardless of what her supposed "higher calling" may be, Sarah Palin will remain a public figure. Soon, she will be unencumbered by the duties of the Governor's office, just as she is unencumbered by any apparent familiarity with the Constitution of the United States.
In the meantime, as she faces growing press scrutiny over her bizarre decision to step down, Sara Palin can follow her own advice to Hillary Clinton last year and just "plow through."