Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times is heading to trial on Monday.
The lawsuit centers around a New York Times op-ed that falsely implicated Palin’s political action committee (PAC) for “political incitement” in the shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.
In June 2017, the same day that a leftist shot Rep. Steve Scalise during a congressional baseball practice, the Times ran an op-ed headlined “America’s Lethal Politics.” The piece falsely claimed that Palin’s PAC had shared a map with 20 Democratic lawmakers, including Giffords, in “stylized crosshairs” prior to her shooting. They claimed that “the link to political incitement was clear.”
Palin says that former editorial page editor James Bennet defamed her by publishing the claim.
“The trial before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff marks a rare instance of a major media company defending its editorial practices before an American jury. Opening statements could take place as soon as Monday, following jury selection,” Reuters reports.
Though the lies were clear, Palin will have to prove the editor acted with “actual malice” to the jury. Ironically, the “actual malice” standard was set by the Supreme Court in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, 58 years ago. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have been open about wanting to revisit that standard.
Reuters noted that “the Times quickly corrected the editorial to disclaim any connection between political rhetoric and the Arizona shooting, and Bennet has said he did not intend to blame Palin.” The lawmaker does not believe that the error was unintentional, however.
Palin is seeking unspecified damages, but the court documents estimate there was approximately $421,000 in damage to her reputation.
The Times has essentially argued that since she was already controversial, they have a right to libel her.
“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.