By TOM HAYS, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Well over a decade after emerging on the national stage as a Republican running mate, Sarah Palin is poised to make headlines in a legal battle with the New York Times.
A libel lawsuit against The Times, filed by the brash former governor of Alaska in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday in federal court in Manhattan.
His case survived an initial dismissal that was overturned on appeal in 2019, paving the way for a rare case where a major news organization will have to defend itself before a jury in a defamation case involving a major public figure.
Palin, 57, claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece written by her editorial board that falsely claimed that her political rhetoric helped incite the 2011 shooting of the U.S. Representative. Arizona Gabby Giffords. The newspaper acknowledged that the editorial’s original wording was flawed, but not in an intentional or reckless way that would make it defamatory.
It is presumed that Palin will be the star witness in the civil case, speaking out to support accusations that the Times should pay damages for harming her budding career as a political commentator. There have been no responses to messages left last week with her lawyers asking if and when she will testify.
Palin sued The Times in 2017, citing the gun control op-ed published after Louisiana U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, also a Republican, was injured when a man with a history of anti-GOP activity opened fire on a congressional baseball team practice in Washington.
In the editorial, the Times wrote that prior to the 2011 mass shooting that seriously injured Giffords and killed six others, Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of electoral districts that placed Giffords and 19 other Democrats under a stylized crosshairs.
In a correction two days later, the Times said the editorial had “incorrectly stated that a link existed between the political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting” and that it had “incorrectly described” the map.
The disputed wording had been added to the editorial by James Bennet, then editor of the editorial page. At trial, a jury is expected to decide whether he acted with “actual malice”, meaning he knew what he wrote was untrue, or with a “reckless disregard” for the truth.
In his pretrial testimony, Bennet cited deadline pressures as he explained that he had not personally researched the information on Palin’s political action committee before approving the editorial’s publication. He said he thought the editorial was accurate when it was published.
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