Sarah Palin’s defamation case against New York Times heads to trial

The trial will begin this week in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) defamation case against The New York Times over a corrected editorial linking her to “political incitement.”

Palin’s case is set to be heard in a Manhattan federal court beginning Monday, where the former vice presidential candidate will try and convince jurors that the newspaper and its former editorial page editor James Bennet defamed her in an opinion piece, according to Reuters.  

Palin accused the Times of defaming her in a June 2017 editorial that linked her political action committee (PAC) to the 2011 mass shooting at an Arizona parking lot, which left six people dead and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) critically wounded. She is seeking unspecified damages and about $421,000 in damage to her reputation.

The editorial was published the same day a gunman opened fire at a baseball field where Republican lawmakers were practicing, leading to several people being wounded including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), according to the Times.  

The editorial in question was headlined “America’s Lethal Politics” and said “the link to political incitement was clear” in the 2011 shooting, noting the incident occurred after Palin’s PAC shared a map that put 20 Democratic lawmakers including Giffords in “stylized cross hairs.” 

Palin took issue with language Bennett added to an earlier draft written by a colleague, saying the material conveyed a “preconceived narrative” and that an editor of Bennett’s experience should have understood the seriousness of his words.

The Times corrected the editorial, saying it “incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.”

Bennet has denied any willful effort to falsely blame Palin, and the newspaper has also argued that it did not ruin her reputation.

“Gov. Palin already was viewed as a controversial figure with a complicated history and reputation, and in the time since the editorial was published, Gov. Palin has prospered,” the Times said in a Jan. 17 court filing.

In a statement Sunday, a Times spokesperson said “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.”

“We are deeply committed to fairness and accuracy in our journalism, and when we fall short, we correct our errors publicly, as we did in this case,” they added. 

Palin’s trial against the newspaper is expected to last five days, Reuters noted.

Updated: 9:15 p.m.

Tags Gabby Giffords New York New York City New York Times Sarah Palin Steve Scalise

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