On Monday, a federal judge stated that although the jury is still deliberating, he plans to dismiss the defamation lawsuit former GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin filed against The New York Times after it falsely suggested in a 2017 editorial that an ad circulated by Palin’s political-action committee triggered a mass shooting near Tucson, Arizona, in 2011 that left six people dead and 13 wounded.
Judge Jed S. Rakoff asserted that Palin’s legal team had not proven The Times acted with actual malice in its June 14, 2017 editorial, which was corrected the morning after it was published. On the day of the editorial, a gunman had opened fire at a baseball field where GOP congressmen were practicing; Congressman Steve Scalise was seriously wounded and others were injured.
The Times recalled on Monday, “The headline was ‘America’s Lethal Politics,’ and the editorial asked whether the Virginia shooting was evidence of how vicious American politics had become.”
“The paper’s editorial cited a ‘targets’ website created by Ms. Palin for the 2010 midterm elections that featured crosshairs over Democratic House districts, including Ms. Gifford’s. ‘The link to political incitement was clear,’ states a later-deleted line from the piece,” The Wall Street Journal noted when the lawsuit was filed in 2017.
Rakoff stated on Monday, “This is an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of The Times,” but added, “my job is to apply the law. … The law sets a very high standard for actual malice, and in this case the court finds that that standard has not been met,” The Washington Post reported. He noted he would continue to let the jury deliberate to a conclusion, though it would be dismissed and opined that Palin would likely appeal his decision, adding that an appeals court “would greatly benefit from knowing how the jury would decide” the case.
The Wall Street Journal noted on Friday:
Palin lawyer Kenneth Turkel urged a federal jury in Manhattan to hold the Times accountable in a case that he said boiled down to a simple rule: “Don’t say false things.” Mr. Turkel argued the Times and its then-opinion editor had doggedly advanced a narrative that “demonized the right wing,” part of what he alleged was a pattern at the newspaper.
Turkel asserted, “All they had to do was dislike her a little less and we’re not sitting here today.”
David Axelrod, representing The Times, stated that The Times had made an honest mistake that was fixed quickly, claiming there was no false narrative or political agenda at work. He added that The Times issued a “fast and broad” correction and had tweeted an apology.
Turkel pointed out that the correction issued by The Times did not mention Palin’s name or explain how the mistake occurred, which he said was “indicative of an arrogance and a sense of power that is uncontrolled, for which Governor Palin’s only remedy is to use our system here, the judicial system,” The Washington Post noted.