(HorizonPost.com) – In 2017, the New York Times published an article partially blaming former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s (R) political action committee (PAC) for contributing to the 2011 deadly massacre in Arizona. Although the paper quickly corrected its mistake, Palin alleged they permanently damaged her reputation and sued the Times. On February 15, a Manhattan jury sided with the publication, stating the paper did not defame the former Veep hopeful.
Interestingly, the presiding judge previously announced he would dismiss the case no matter what the jury decided. Since the jury was aware of US District Judge Jed Rakoff’s stance, it’s possible the declaration influenced their decision. Unfortunately for Palin, it didn’t seem to matter — but is it something her attorneys could investigate for a possible appeal?
Details About the Article
In 2017, a gunman at a congressional baseball practice near Washington, DC opened fire, shooting Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) and many others. Inside the piece, the New York Times made reference to a previous shooting six years prior, which wounded former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and killed six other people. The paper alleged political rhetoric sparked the shooting and pointed to an ad circulated by Palin’s PAC with crosshairs on Democratic House districts as to blame. Hours after the NYT published the story, it released two article corrections and apologized to its readers about the mistaken connection.
Palin called the move “woefully insufficient” and sued them for defaming her. However, defamation of a public figure is historically hard to prove, and the court decided the former politician failed to prove her case.
Moving Forward for Palin
To prove her case, Palin’s lawyers needed to prove the paper had malicious intent to slander the former governor. However, New York Times lawyer David Axelrod argued the writer had no such intention, and there was no evidence the article harmed her in any way. A spokesperson for the NYT announced after the verdict the newspaper was glad the judge and jury “understood the legal protections” that span media outlets.
After hearing the jury’s decision, Palin’s attorneys also released a statement stating they would consider all options moving forward, including an appeal of the verdict. Although she did not prevail in this case, perhaps the New York Times and other media papers and outlets will use the suit as a learning experience going forward. Judge Rakoff stated the incident was an “example of very unfortunate editorializing,” so will Palin’s move result in more diligence by the media regardless of the ultimate outcome of her suit?
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