“BREAKING: Gov. Sarah Palin Sends Letter to Crown/Random House, Warns Not to Destroy Documents Ahead of Potential Defamation Suit,” Big Government reports, along with video from ABC reporting the story, with just a hint of ruling class smirk.
Update: Stacy McCain adds:
A publisher is put on notice by such a letter that the lawyer’s client considers himself the victim of libel. Notice of intent is required for several reasons. In the newspaper business, if somebody calls your office and bitches about a story, OK. But the minute they say “lawsuit” or “lawyer,” you end the conversation and refer them to the newspaper’s attorney. If the complainer is actually serious about libel suit, their lawyer sends a demand letter, and the newspaper’s attorney then considers whether the complainer has a case. If the lawyer says retract, you retract.
Printing a retraction is a humiliating thing for a newspaper to do, but it’s cheaper than taking a libel suit to court. Retracting a book is not so easy, which is why book publishers have lawyers on retainer whose job is to vet manuscripts like McGinniss’s.
For many years, it has been part of my business to know the difference between the mere threat of a libel suit – threats are a dime a dozen — and such letters as Tiemessen has sent Random House. This is not a “threat,” and the executives at Random House damn well know it. They clearly failed to perform “due diligence” in fact-checking, and no cleverness in attributing lies to anonymous sources can protect them.
Even before Palin’s announcement to Random House, as Joe Pollak writes at Big Journalism, “NPR, MSNBC, Current TV Fleeing From Anti-Palin Random House Hoax Bio; McGinnis Claims Cover-Up.”