August 29, 2020
Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times is moving forward and headed to trial after a federal judge ruled Friday that a jury will decide whether the newspaper acted with “actual malice” when it published a false editorial pointing to Palin as the motivation behind the 2011 assassination attempt on former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).
What are the details?
Palin sued The Times in 2017 over a piece that linked materials distributed by the former Alaskan governor’s political action committee and the Tucson, Arizona, mass murder at a Giffords event that left six people dead and Giffords injured.
An excerpt from the editorial — which was later corrected — read:
Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.
The lawsuit has been tied up in the courts ever since, and on Friday, Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff denied The Times’ request to bring the case to a close, which Law & Crime called “a major procedural win” for Palin.
“Gov. Palin brings this action to hold [former editor] James Bennett and The Times accountable for defaming her by falsely asserting what they knew to be false: that Gov. Palin was clearly and directly responsible for inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011,” the judge wrote.
“Specifically,” he continued, “on June 14, 2017, The Times published an editorial authored in the name of its Editorial Board (which represents the ‘voice’ of The Times) that falsely stated as a matter of fact to millions of people that Gov. Palin incited Jared Loughner’s January 8, 2011, mass shooting at a political event in Tucson, Arizona.”
Rakoff added, “Taken in the light most favorable to (Palin), the evidence shows Bennet came up with an angle for the editorial, ignored the articles brought to his attention that were inconsistent with his angle, disregarded the…research he commissioned, and ultimately made the point he set out to make in reckless disregard of the truth.”
In reaction to the judge’s decision, a spokeswoman for The Times said in a statement, “We’re disappointed in the ruling but are confident we will prevail at trial when a jury hears the facts,” the New York Daily News reported.