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Verdicts & Settlements

Sarah Palin Loses Libel Lawsuit Against New York Times

— February 16, 2022

The presiding judge said that, even if the jury delivered a favorable verdict for Palin, he would have been compelled to overturn it.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has lost her years-long libel lawsuit against The New York Times, after a jury rejected her claim that the media outlet had damaged her reputation by linking her to a mass shooting.

According to The Associated Press, the presiding judge had already said he would set aside any jury verdict favorable to Palin on grounds that she had not adequately proved that the Times acted with malice.

Shortly after the ruling, Palin told reporters that she is unhappy with the verdict and hopes there will be an appeal.

“Of course we’re disappointed,” she said, while still praising the performances of her two attorneys.

“There were three of us versus the monstrous team of The New York Times, and we did well,” she said. “Doing all they can to make sure the little guy has a voice, the underdog can have their say.”

[writer’s note: Sarah Palin’s personal net worth is estimated between $8 and $12 million]

The New York Times, meanwhile, praised the decision, calling it a “reaffirmation of a fundamental tenet of American law: public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish or intimidate news organizations that make, acknowledge, and swiftly correct unintentional errors.”

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

As has reported before, Palin’s lawsuit centered on an opinion-editorial on gun violence first published in the New York Times. In it, the author suggested that Palin’s political rhetoric may have contributed to or inspired an attack on former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011, which left six people dead and Giffords severely injured.

Shortly after the editorial was published, the Times released a statement saying that it had “incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.”

“We got an important fact wrong,” the Times wrote in a tweet.

Despite the Times’ quick retraction, Palin initiated legal action.

When the case went to trial, the former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential nominee claimed she had been victimized by a biased media outlet that caters to the so-called liberal elite.

“It was devastating to read a false accusation that I had anything to do with murder,” Palin said. “I felt powerless—that I was up against Goliath … I was David.”

However, CNN says that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff appears to have made his mind up even before the jury finished deliberating, finding that Palin failed to show that the Times acted with malice when it first published the editorial.

“We’ve reached the same bottom line,” Rakoff said once the jurors re-entered the courtroom. “But it’s on different grounds—you decided the facts, I decided the law.”


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