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HomeNewsJury finds New York Times did not defame Sarah Palin

Jury finds New York Times did not defame Sarah Palin


A Manhattan federal jury ruled Tuesday that the New York Times did not defame Sarah Palin in a 2017 editorial — a day after the judge in the case said he would dismiss the complaint because Palin had failed to prove the Gray Lady acted with actual malice.

The former Alaska governor will be awarded no damages. 

The verdict comes after Judge Jed Rakoff told attorneys for the Times and Palin on Monday that he would dismiss the suit when the jury reached a verdict. 

Rakoff said in court that during the trial, Palin and her attorneys failed to provide evidence that the Times, and former editorial page editor James Bennet, had acted with actual malice toward Palin when they published a 2017 editorial linking her political action committee to a 2011 deadly mass shooting that wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords. 

In his remarks, Rakoff criticized the Times, but said the high standard for proving actual malice had not been met. 

“I’m not altogether happy to have to make this decision on behalf of the defendant,” Rakoff said as jurors continued deliberating the case.

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin arrives in all denim at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse on February 15, 2022, in New York.

“I’m troubled by the fact that the erroneous edits made by Mr. Bennet reasonably could be read by many readers as an accusation that Ms. Palin’s PAC’s distribution of the cross hairs map was clearly and directly linked to the [Jared Lee] Loughner shooting …”

The June 14, 2017, editorial was published the same day a gunman opened fire on GOP members of Congress at a northern Virginia baseball field. 

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said that Times had defamed her by linking her political action committee to a 2011 deadly mass shooting that wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said the Times had defamed her by linking her political action committee to a 2011 mass shooting that wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Alec Tabak for NY Post

The piece was supposed to comment on gun control and heated political rhetoric in the US, but included an erroneous assertion that a map created by Palin’s PAC had incited Loughner, the Arizona gunman who opened fire on Giffords and others in 2011. 

The language about the 2011 shooting was written in by Bennet and claimed there was a “clear” link between the shooting and “political incitement,” in part because of the map. 

Sarah Palin court sketch
Palin lost her defamation lawsuit trial against the Times on February 15, 2022.
REUTERS

“Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs,” the editorial stated.

“Ms. Palin was subjected to an ultimately unsupported and serious allegation that Mr. Bennet chose to revisit after the underlying events,” Rakoff said Monday.

James Bennett
James Bennett, former editorial page editor of the New York Times, arrives at federal court on Feb. 15, 2022.
Alec Tabak

“So I don’t mean to be misunderstood. I think this is an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times,” he added.

Rakoff said he would wait until the jury returned its verdict to dismiss the complaint to allow an appeals court to weigh both his judgment and the panel’s consensus.

The June 14, 2017, editorial was published the same day a gunman opened fire on GOP members of Congress at a northern Virginia baseball field.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Palin, who filed suit weeks after the editorial was published, was likely to appeal the decision after the jury returned a verdict, Rakoff said. 

On Monday, Palin said the judge’s judgment usurped the trial process. 

“This is a jury trial. We always thank jurors. We always appreciate the system. So whatever happened in there kind of usurps the system,” she said.



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