Judge Shuts Down Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against NY Times

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Federal Judge Jed Rakoff indicated on Monday that he planned to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that Sarah Palin brought against The New York Times, and if the jury (which was still deliberating at the time he announced his decision) ruled in her favor, then he’d override that verdict, the Times says. The case rose from a 2017 article that connected previous rhetoric associated with Palin to the 2011 mass shooting in which six people lost their lives and 14 — including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — were wounded. Rakoff concluded that Palin’s side failed to prove that “actual malice” underpinned the disputed article; such a determination is critical to allowing defamation cases to stand. Here, the concept of actual malice means that those perpetrating it either showed a “reckless disregard for the truth” or knew that what they were publishing was untrue, the Times explains.

As summarized by the Times, Rakoff ‘indicated that he believed an appeal by Ms. Palin was likely, and he said that the appeals court “would greatly benefit from knowing how the jury would decide” the case.’ As for the original article driving this case, the Times notes that “Ms. Giffords’s district had been one of 20 singled out on a map circulated by Ms. Palin’s political action committee underneath digitized crosshairs,” but there “was no evidence the shooter had seen or been motivated by the map.” The paper corrected the article that linked the two items within a day, and former Times editor James Bennet, who was responsible for the language relaying the false connection, expressed serious remorse for the oversight during proceedings in this case. As he put it, tying Palin to the 2011 shooting “was just a terrible mistake.”

Generally though, it’s become only increasingly popular among right-wingers to go after the media, even in the absence of any legitimate evidence of some sort of conspiracy to somehow silence conservatives. There’s no mass silencing of conservatives going on, anyway — among other examples, they have Fox News, after all! As for the Palin case, CNN said Monday that “Attorneys for the New York Times hugged each other after the decision was made in court,” adding: “Palin’s attorneys had no comment when asked by CNN.” Originally, the article in question asserted that there’d been a “clear” link between the Palin-tied map and the Arizona shooting, although no such connection was present. Rakoff said that he believes that “this an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times,” adding: “The law here sets a very high standard (for actual malice). The court finds that that standard has not been met.”

Featured image: edited and via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, available under a Creative Commons license