Jury Finds New York Times Not Liable In Sarah Palin Libel Case; Judge Had Already Planned To Dismiss Claim

A jury ruled that New York Times and one of its top editors were not liable in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit, affirming a judge’s earlier announcement that he would dismiss the case irregardless of their decision.

The jury’s verdict was unanimous.

As the jury continued its deliberations on Monday, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff told attorneys that he would toss out the case after concluding that Palin’s attorneys had failed to show that the Times and James Bennet, a former editor, had acted with actual malice, the threshold for proving libel against a public figure. Rakoff said that he would still allow the jury to reach a verdict because of the likelihood of an appeal.

The case centered on a June 14, 2017 Times editorial, written hours after a shooter opened fire on a congressional softball game, that delved into harsh political rhetoric and its links to violence. Bennet, then the Times Opinion Editor, said he was responsible for inserting an edit into the story that linked Palin’s political action committee to a 2011 mass shooting, in which six people were killed and Rep. Gabby Giffords was severely wounded.

The original Times editorial, headlined “America’s Lethal Politics,” read, “Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. 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 crosshairs.”

In fact, no link was ever established, and the Times issued corrections. But Palin still sued.

More to come.



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