ABC News: Governor Palin Threatens to Sue Creepy Joe McGinniss and His Publisher (Update: Stacy McCain Weighs In)

I suspected this might be coming given the utterly absurd claims by Creepy Joe and the recent revelations from Andrew Breitbart. Being a “public figure” doesn’t give people the right to make anything up they want. Via Shushannah Walshe and Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Sarah Palin’s family attorney John Tiemessen has written a letter to Maya Mavjee, the publisher of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, that Palin may sue her, the company, and the book’s author Joe McGinniss “for knowingly publishing false statements” in his book released last week, “The Rogue,” ABC News has learned.


The book was widely panned by critics for using unnamed sources to criticize Palin and her family. Tiemessen cites an email they have access to in which McGinniss writes that attorneys from Crown Publishing told him “nothing I can cite other than my own reporting rises above the level of tawdry gossip. The proof is always just around the corner, but that is a corner nobody has been able to turn” and that McGinniss “ran out of time” to sufficiently source the book.

A source close to the Palins tells ABC News that the “Palins are fighting back and demanding answers from Random House.”

“Random House is at the top of the food chain and published a book based upon acknowledged unsubstantiated gossip,” the source said. “The revealing email is key as evidence of this defamatory approach to politics through proxies.”

Tiemessen writes in the letter that the email “clearly describes the fact that Mr. McGinniss researched and investigated many false and scurrilous allegations, and concluded that there was absolutely no evidence anywhere backing these allegations.”

Palin’s attorney writes that it is “malicious” for Crown to publish the book when it has proof McGinniss and Crown “were fully aware the statements in the book were false, intended to be false, and were intended to harm.”

“The final work that was published contains most of the stories that Mr. McGinniss complains were nothing more than ‘tawdry gossip’ that amounted to the wishful fantasies of disturbed individuals,” Tiemessen writes. “Since both your company, and the author, clearly knew the statements were false, admitted they had no basis in fact or reality, but decided to publish in order to harm Governor Palin’s family, you and Mr. McGinniss have defamed the Palins.”

Tiemessen ends the letter by warning the publishing house not to “delete emails or destroy records” that may be used in the suit.

The email Tiemessen cites in his letter to Mavjee came to light last week when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted an email between McGinniss and liberal Alaskan blogger, Jesse Griffin. In the email posted on Breitbart’s site without explanation for how they got access to it, McGinniss writes, “Legal review of my manuscript is underway and here’s my problem: no one has ever offered documentation of any of the lurid stories about the Palins.”


Read the rest here.  Video below.

Update by Nicole: Stacy McCain gives his extended take on the letter:

Tiemessen’s letter is actually a “litigation hold,” a notice to a prospective defendant that he should preserve documents relevant to “anticipated litigation.”

Which is very close to “See you in court, buddy” — as I say, it’s not a mere threat. In the comments below, I explain that my knowledge of libel law is strictly operational: As a journalist, how do I avoid a libel suit? And, if I find myself threatened with such a suit, how do I deal with it?

Most of the time, I laugh off any mere threat of a libel suit. American libel law generally favors the defendant. A journalist has to screw up pretty bad to lose a libel case, particularly one where the plaintiff is a public figure per the Sullivan precedent. But (a) McGinniss has screwed up royally with his e-mail to Griffin, and (b) Sarah’s brother Chuck Heath Jr. is clearly not a public figure, nor are several other members of Palin’s family who might claim defamation in this case. So even if Sarah can’t win a trial case, Random House’s exposure doesn’t end there.

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