Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against New York Times Moves Forward

Sarah Palin's Lawsuit Against New York Times Moves Forward

( – The former governor of Alaska and one-time vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin (R), has been in a legal battle with The New York Times (NYT) over an editorial it published. The lawsuit has dragged on, but a judge recently sent the case to trial, set for February 3. However the case moves forward, it could potentially change protections the First Amendment grants to journalists and reporting agencies.

Palin’s Suit

In 2017, the former Alaskan governor found herself the focal point of an NYT article connecting her to a 2011 shooting. The publication accused Palin of inciting the violence that left 13 injured and six people dead, including Democrat Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).

The Washington Post drew attention to the false claims in the NYT article, indicating that Palin played no role in motivating Jared Loughner to shoot those people in Tucson, Arizona; the analysis came long before the company published the editorial in 2017. The Washington Post again asserted that Palin had no part in the shooting after the NYT corrected its article, but it noted the disappointment of such news being spread by a major media outlet.

NYT Defense

The publishing agency admitted that there were inaccuracies in its article but called them honest mistakes. The NYT asserted the court can’t hold it liable because the false claims were not made to intentionally damage Palin’s image, citing there needs to be clear and convincing evidence to prove “actual malice.”

The NYT defense largely leans on a Supreme Court ruling from 1964 in the “Times v. Sullivan” case. Representatives claim there’s no liability because the errors weren’t intentional, despite the Washington Post disproving Palin’s involvement years before NYT published the editorial.

Palin’s Fight

The former vice-presidential candidate filed her suit in 2017 and has fought tooth and nail to hold the NYT accountable. In 2019, a court dismissed Palin’s case, but that ruling was eventually overturned, breathing new life into her lawsuit. It’s more than likely that Palin will be the centerpiece of the ongoing litigation, testifying against the NYT to support her claims the publisher hurt her image while her political career was taking off, asserting the newspaper should have to pay for damages.

Palin and her legal team face an uphill battle to prove “actual malice,” but the former governor believes the “Times v. Sullivan” ruling has no place in the modern era, adding that she has proof of wrongdoing.

Altering the Journalism Landscape

If Palin loses the libel case, she will undoubtedly seek an argument with the Supreme Court. Two Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, have insisted that the “Times v. Sullivan” ruling be overturned. If the high court decided to overrule the law, it would change journalism in the United States dramatically. Despite the low chances she has of winning the case under current circumstances, a hearing with the Supreme Court could serve as a pathway to victory for the former governor. A victory that would change what freedom of the press means.

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