Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times over a 2017 editorial that falsely linked her to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and many more wounded, including former Rep. Gabbie Giffords (D-AZ).
Unfortunately for Palin, a federal district court judge announced this week that he intended to dismiss the lawsuit, albeit only after the jury had finished deliberating and with no regard to what the jury’s eventual verdict might be, the Washington Examiner reported.
The stated reason for Judge Jed Rakoff to toss Palin’s lawsuit against The Times was his determination that Palin’s attorneys had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the newspaper had knowingly published false information or acted with a deliberate attempt to defame Palin’s reputation.
Palin fraudulently linked to 2011 mass shooting
According to Fox News, the 2017 article from The Times that prompted Palin’s lawsuit was a call for more gun control in the wake of the attempted mass murder of Republican members of Congress by an avowed leftist. In a clear example of “whataboutism,” The Times tried to downplay that attack by referencing other supposedly politically-motivated shootings.
That included mention of the 2011 shooting by a mentally unstable man at an event for then-Rep. Giffords, which The Times sought to blame directly on Palin due to a 2010 ad from her political action committee that targeted multiple flippable Democratic districts with crosshairs, including Giffords’ district in Arizona.
Except there was and is literally zero evidence linking Palin’s PAC ad to the Giffords shooting, and The Times corrected the article just a day or so later to remove the false accusation, but the damage had already been done to Palin’s reputation and she sued the dishonest and biased newspaper for unspecified damages over the defamatory claims.
Judge says appeal likely inevitable in decision to dismiss lawsuit
Axios reported that Judge Rakoff announced on Monday his intention to dismiss the suit even as the jury continued to deliberate since, in his view, Palin’s attorneys had failed to prove that The Times had acted with “actual malice” toward Palin or “reckless disregard” for the truth.
The former governor’s attorneys certainly did argue as much, but lawyers for The Times countered that the false claims had been an “honest mistake” that had been “quickly” corrected and thus was no big deal — a proposition that it appears the judge agreed with in summarily deciding to dismiss the case before the jury had concluded its deliberations.
In announcing the imminent dismissal no matter what the jury decided, Judge Rakoff had noted the inevitability of the case being appealed and, according to Fox, wanted the jury to reach a verdict anyway in order for the appellate court to know for sure how the jury would have decided the case if it hadn’t been dismissed.
Case could end up on Supreme Court docket
Supposedly, the jury has not been made aware of the judge’s pending dismissal order and is continuing to deliberate under the assumption that the trial remains ongoing.
As for the purported inevitability of an appeal, the judge was likely correct in that regard, as Business Insider reported last week that Palin had signaled her willingness to take her lawsuit against The Times all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
That sets up the possibility that the Supreme Court could reconsider and even overturn the precedent it set in 1964 with the case known as New York Times v. Sullivan, which set the rather high bar of “actual malice” and “reckless disregard” for libel and defamation suits involving public figures against the media.