A Manhattan jury found that The New York Times did not defame former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in a 2017 editorial that claimed her political action committee was connected to the 2011 shooting of a Democratic member of Congress.
Palin and her attorneys argued that The New York Times libeled her in the editorial, which posited a “clear … link to political incitement” through a map her organization distributed that listed Democratic members of Congress who would be targeted in the 2012 midterms. Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was listed on the map, was shot by a mentally ill man at an event outside a grocery store. No link between Palin’s advertising and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was ever established.
Loughner was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and ruled unfit to stand trial. He is currently housed at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, a facility for inmates with long-term mental healthcare needs.
BREAKING: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lost her libel lawsuit against The New York Times when a jury rejected her claim that the newspaper maliciously damaged her reputation by erroneously linking her campaign rhetoric to a mass shooting. https://t.co/ga7O1aDjjg
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 15, 2022
District Court Judge Jed Rakoff announced Monday that he would dismiss Palin’s lawsuit regardless of the jury’s verdict because her legal team failed to argue the “actual malice” standard required for defamation cases involving public figures plaintiffs. However, he added that he would allow the jury to issue its ruling due so that a higher court could have the information during the appeals process. (RELATED: Sarah Palin Suing New York Times For Defamation)
Palin’s lawyers argued that The New York Times wrote the editorial without regard for the facts of the Giffords shooting because of its ideological opposition to Palin. Former Opinion Editor James Bennet countered that the claim was a “mistake,” and that the paper “tr[ies] our damnedest to be perfect.”
“I’ve edited and written hundreds of pieces on deadline, thousands. I have made very few mistakes, at least ones that I know of,” Bennet testified.
In the editorial, The New York Times likened the Giffords shooting to the 2017 baseball practice shooting of several top Republicans, including House Whip Steve Scalise, by a Bernie Sanders supporter, although the newspaper asserted “no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack.” James Hodgkinson, the baseball shooter, frequently inveighed against conservatives in his local newspaper.