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Judge to dismiss Sarah Palin's New York Times libel lawsuit

Image source, Getty Images

A New York judge has ruled that a libel lawsuit filed against the New York Times by former Alaska governor and vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin will be thrown out due to lack of evidence.

Ms Palin had claimed the newspaper defamed her by linking her to a 2011 shooting that left people dead and a US representative wounded.

The judge, however, has said he will allow the jury to deliberate a verdict in the case before it is thrown out.


Ms Palin is expected to appeal.

She originally filed her lawsuit against the newspaper in 2017, arguing her reputation was damaged by an opinion piece – written by its editorial board – which said her political rhetoric helped incite the 2011 shooting in Arizona that severely wounded US Representative Gabby Giffords and killed six other people.

The New York Times piece also said Ms Palin’s political action committee had circulated a map of electoral districts that put Ms Giffords and 19 other Democrats under “stylised crosshairs”.

The newspaper later corrected the editorial and conceded the wording used in it was flawed.

During her witness testimony, Ms Palin accused the New York Times of trying to “score political points” with the editorial, which she said left her feeling “powerless” and “mortified”. She also said the newspaper’s correction was insufficient – and didn’t include her name.

How much ‘actual malice’?

In court on Monday, US District Judge Jed Rakoff said he planned to order that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying Ms Palin’s team had failed to prove the newspaper was aware the information was false or that it acted recklessly by publishing it.

In an unusual move, however, Mr Rakoff said the jury deliberations – which began Friday – would be allowed to continue. He said that with an appeal from Ms Palin’s legal team likely, an appeals court “would greatly benefit from knowing how the jury would decide it”.

Ms Palin had previously signalled a willingness to appeal if she lost the case in court and would potentially challenge New York Times v Sullivan, a 1964 Supreme Court cases that establishes how much “actual malice” a public figure needs to prove defamation legally.

In 2008, Ms Palin was the Republican vice-presidential nominee alongside the late Arizona Senator John McCain.

In January, the court case was delayed after Ms Palin tested positive for Covid-19.

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