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Judge Dismisses Sarah Palin’s New York Times Defamation Lawsuit

Judge Dismisses Sarah Palin’s New York Times Defamation Lawsuit

A U.S. judge on Monday said he will throw out Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times after concluding that the newspaper did not in an editorial maliciously link the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate to a mass murder.

In an unexpected twist in a trial seen as a test of longstanding protections for American media, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Palin’s lawsuit will be dismissed because she failed to show the Times acted with “actual malice.”

 

On the witness stand, Palin compared herself to the biblical underdog David against the Times’ Goliath, while accusing the newspaper of trying to “score political points.” She testified that the editorial left her feeling “powerless” and “mortified,” and that the correction issued by the newspaper the morning after publication was accurate but insufficient and did not mention her by name. Palin maintained that the Times undermined her reputation by falsely linking her to amass murder and by not being fast or thorough enough in correcting its error. But she also struggled under cross-examination to provide specific examples about how the editorial harmed her reputation and cost her opportunities.

It’s unusual for a major media outlet to defend its editorial practices in public court, as the Times had to do in this case. Palin had sued the newspaper and its former editorial page editor James Bennet, contending that an editorial from June 2017 incorrectly linked her to a mass shooting six years earlier that wounded Democratic U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Headlined “America’s Lethal Politics,” which addressed gun control and lamented the rise of incendiary political rhetoric, it was written the same day as a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia where Republican U.S. congressman Steve Scalise was wounded. One of Bennet’s colleagues prepared a draft that referred to the January 2011 shooting in a Tucson, Arizona, parking lot where six people were killed and Giffords was wounded. Bennet inserted language that said “the link to political incitement was clear” between the Giffords shooting and a map previously circulated by Palin’s political action committee that the draft editorial said put Giffords and 19 other Democrats under crosshairs. The Times corrected the editorial about 14 hours later. Bennet testified that he made the additions too quickly under deadline pressure, and intended no harm to Palin.

 

Palin had sought unspecified monetary damages and is expected to appeal.

 

 

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