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Sarah Palin’s Defamation Lawsuit Against The New York Times Begins Following COVID-19 Delay

The newspaper linked a 2011 mass shooting to a map created by Palin's PAC in a 2017 editorial


A defamation lawsuit filed by Sarah Palin against The New York Times is underway after a weeklong delay.

The former Alaskan governor tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 24, just as jury selection was set to begin. Palin, who is not vaccinated, is seeking unspecified damages from the newspaper.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff delayed the case until Feb. 3, contingent on Palin’s recovery. Courthouse rules would permit her to return at that time provided she is not symptomatic.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2017 after the newspaper published an editorial titled “America’s Lethal Politics” about mass shootings in America. Palin argues the outlet defamed her by linking actions by her political action committee to the shooting that injured then Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords and killed six others.

The PAC reportedly published “a map of electoral districts that put Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs,” per ABC News.

The Times issued a correction two days after the editorial’s release saying the piece had “incorrectly described the map” and “incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.”

The one-time vice presidential candidate has argued that the editorial damaged her political career.

In addition to the newspaper, Palin’s suit names former editorial page editor James Bennet as a defendant.

“In this trial we are seeking to reaffirm a foundational principle of American law: public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish unintentional errors by news organizations,” a spokesperson for The Times said in a statement.

The spokesperson added: “We published an editorial about an important topic that contained an inaccuracy. We set the record straight with a correction.”

Palin and her legal team have to prove The Times acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard” for the truth when it published the editorial.

“The case could test not only whether The Times must pay Palin, but also how we will balance protection for people’s reputations versus protection for the media in an online, social media-dominated world,” reported MSNBC.

Following the Supreme Court’s 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, a public figure who files defamation cases must prove that the statements they take issue with are those of fact, that the false statements damaged their reputation, and were made by the defendant with actual malice.

Proving actual malice is a challenging standard and is largely considered a safeguard for the press in defamation suits.

Palin was seen in federal court in Manhattan on Feb. 3 wearing an N-95 mask and carrying a cloth mask with a New York Rangers logo.

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