Sarah Palin files convincing lawsuit against the New York Times editorial board – Washington Post (blog)
Sarah Palin is quite a public figure. She served as governor of Alaska; Sen. John McCain’s running mate on the 2008 presidential ticket; a Fox News contributor; a reality TV host; an advocate for conservative causes and candidates; and a convener of a big Facebook crowd.
Under the law, then, it is difficult to libel Palin. Successful libel suits from public officials and public figures require proving that the offending media outlet published false and defamatory information with knowledge of its falsity, or at least with reckless disregard of the truth.
And even with such a high legal bar to clear, Palin’s just-filed suit against the New York Times Co. comes off as a convincing legal argument. Filed in federal court in New York, the suit seeks unspecified damages stemming from a much-discussed June 14 editorial stating that a Palin group was responsible for inciting the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting rampage by Jared Loughner in Tucson, which killed six people and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The news peg for this particular editorial was the June 14 shooting attack by James Hodgkinson on members of Congress as they practiced in preparation for a baseball game.
Social media roared at the New York Times:
This paragraph in today’s NYT editorial on Alexandria shootings is offensively, quasi-Stalinistically wrong: https://t.co/nWhhcHfMso pic.twitter.com/LkJFifUh73
— Jeff B/DDHQ (@EsotericCD) June 15, 2017
The backlash had merit, too. For one, Palin’s group hadn’t, in fact, put stylized cross hairs over Democratic politicians; it had placed them over the targeted districts on a map. And just as crucially, media reports established that Loughner wasn’t animated by the work of Palin’s group. Jake Tapper was on this story at the time and resurfaced his findings:
even way back in Jan 2011 we knew that Loughlin’s obsession began 3 years before the Palin map.https://t.co/9nJccuIQnb
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) June 15, 2017
The complaint, submitted by law firms in New York and Tampa, takes direct aim at the state of knowledge at the New York Times editorial board: “At the time of publication,” it reads, “The Times knew and had published pieces acknowledging that there was no connection between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s 2011 shooting. Moreover, The Times’ false statements about the link between Mrs. Palin and the Loughner shooting stood in stark contrast to how The Times treated speculation about political motives behind Hodgkinson’s rampage: The Times concluded that there was not a connection between Hodgkinson and his professed penchant for Democratic stances sufficient to warrant implicating Democrats or the Bernie Sanders campaign as inciting factors for Hodgkinson’s attack.”
Nor did the editorial board’s response to all the debunking please Palin and her lawyers. On June 15, the paper appended a correction that read, “An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.”