Palin suing New York Times over editorial on mass shooting

Palin suing New York Times over editorial on mass shooting
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Sarah Palin on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against The New York Times, alleging defamation over an editorial that linked the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) to an ad circulated by the former Alaska governor that put Democratic districts in crosshairs.

A court filing reported Tuesday by the New York Post and CNN shows that Palin is alleging that the newspaper falsely accused her of "inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011." The former GOP vice presidential nominee accuses the paper of printing a claim that it "knew to be false."

In an editorial published June 14, the Times said that Palin's political action committee (PAC) released an ad that depicted Democratic lawmakers' faces under crosshairs. In reality, the ad depicted the lawmakers' districts, not their faces, under crosshairs.

The original editorial centered on the shooting earlier this month of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others at a GOP baseball practice in suburban Washington. It referenced the Palin map in arguing that there was a link between political incitement and the Giffords shooting.

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The newspaper's editors had issued a correction on the Times' website, saying the article "incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords."

"In fact, no such link was established," the correction said.

"The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting," the note read. "It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs."

In order to prove defamation, Palin will have to prove that the Times acted with "malice," due to her distinction as a public figure. A legal expert told The Hill that Palin may have a case, but that proving actual malice will be difficult.

"We know this statement is false, in part because the New York Times walked it back," Heather Hansen, a Philadelphia-based attorney and LawNewz.com contributor told The Hill in an email.

"The actual malice part is a little more difficult. She'd have to show a reckless disregard for the truth."

Hansen said that while Palin likely has an argument, opinion pieces are not usually subject to libel law.

"I would argue that given the quick retraction and the outrageous nature of the claim, [Palin] should have an argument there. The New York Times, though, would defend by saying that this was an editorial and therefore an opinion piece," Hansen wrote. "Opinions are not normally subject to libel claims."

Giffords was severely injured after being shot at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011. Six others died in the attack.  

— Joe Concha contributed.