Palin’s Legal Team Delivers Closing Arguments in Defamation Case Against New York Times

Palin has accused the newspaper of damaging her reputation in a 2017 op-ed on gun violence

Sarah Palin’s attorney said her libel lawsuit against The New York Times came down to a question of power on the trial’s seventh day.

The former governor of Alaska sued the newspaper in June of 2017 after the Times published an opinion piece titled “America’s Lethal Politics” that linked a map published by Plain’s PAC to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona.

Kenneth Turkel, Palin’s attorney, told the jury the case ultimately came down to a question of who has power. He said that the newspaper was “keen” on “turning a blind eye” to the facts.

“The Times resurrected a horrific, false accusation [that] in its simplest form accused Governor Palin of inciting the murder of six people,” he said during closing arguments in a federal courtroom in Manhattan. “All they had to do is care the slightest bit. All they had to do is dislike her a little less, and we’re not sitting here today.”

While on the stand for the second day on Feb. 10, Palin said she felt “powerless” and “mortified” because of the article. She said the allegation changed the way people thought of her.

The former Governor of Alaska was pressed by Times lawyer David Axelrod to say specifically how the article had damaged her reputation, noting that she had made several television appearances after its publication.

Turkel counterargued that her public appearances did not excuse the Times.

“In 2017, Sarah Palin has done nothing to deserve this,” he said. “But when you resurrect this lie, when you resurrect this falsity, it becomes a different story. … She’s got thick skin. This one crossed the line.”

Throughout the trial, Turkel argued that the way the Times treated Palin was part of its established pattern of slurring conservative figures.

“There’s a common thread through all the pieces as to how they treat people on the right they don’t agree with,” he told the jury. “Look at the common thread: how in every single one of them they demonize the right-wing or just treated them differently.”

Axelrod called the op-ed’s false claim an “honest mistake” and said that “it wasn’t a political hit piece.”

James Bennett, who was then the editorial editor for the Times, was named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He said on the stand that he regretted “inputting the inaccuracies during a heavy-handed edit” every day since 2017.

He also said incorrect language that said “the link to political incitement was clear” was corrected the day after the op-ed’s publication.

Palin is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. She has signaled she will appeal if she loses this trial. Palin would challenge the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1964’s New York Times v. Sullivan, which established that plaintiffs must prove a defendant acted with “actual malice” in defamation cases. 

Palin’s legal team must prove the newspaper or Bennett were aware of the false nature of the allegedly defamatory statements in the editorial or that the statements were made in reckless disregard of information that they were untrue, per Politico.

The six-person jury will begin deliberation on either Feb. 11 or Feb. 14.

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