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State Attorney General's Office hosts discussion on Goldmark “red-baiting” attack, resulting lawsuit

— The Attorney General’s Office is hosting a discussion with distinguished panelists regarding state Rep. John Goldmark’s 1962 “red-baiting” attack, and the historic lawsuit that followed.

The discussion is under way now in the Office of the State Attorney General, 800 Fifth Ave., Floor 20.

The panel discussion features:

• Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, son of plaintiff John Goldmark;

• Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, who testified at the trial in support of John Goldmark;

• King County Superior Court Judge Judith Ramseyer, former law clerk to Judge William Dwyer, John Goldmark’s attorney at the trial; and

• State Attorney General Bob Ferguson

In 1962, state Rep. John Goldmark was the victim of a red-baiting attack that labeled him, and his wife Sally Goldmark, as “communist tools.”

Red-baiting is the act of accusing an individual of being communist, or being sympathetic toward communism. The attack destroyed Goldmark’s political career, but he responded by suing his accusers for libel — false statements that are damaging to a person's reputation.

On Jan. 22, 1964, John and Sally Goldmark won $40,000 in the libel case against four individuals and the now-defunct Tonasket Tribune newspaper.

The trial drew national attention, vindicated the Goldmarks, and resulted in one of the largest libel awards in Washington history.

Almost immediately, however, the verdict was indirectly overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, limiting libel actions involving “political” speech.

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