Journalists nationwide have been closely watching the Sarah Palin vs New York Times libel lawsuit in New York, worried about the shockwaves a finding in favor of Palin would case in the media. But, everyone can calm down now, because after a week of testimony - including by Sarah Palin herself - the judge has determined that she did not meet the legal standard required to show that the newspaper actually acted with "malice" when they published a 2017 editorial that included a claim about her that she felt was libelous.
The Washington Post reports that Judge Rakoff "told the lawyers involved in the case that he will formally issue his ruling after a jury that has been deliberating since Friday returns its decision." He acknowledged that he expects the decision to be appealed. But do not completely congratulate Rakoff. He was extremely critical of the Times' error, which was a compilation of "phrases within a larger essay that inaccurately suggested a link of “incitement” between the crosshairs that her political action committee imprinted on a congressional map and a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson."
Even though he felt strongly about the New York Times' error, he told the parties that "the law sets a very high standard for actual malice, and in this case the court finds that that standard has not been met.” Palin's team felt that Bennet, then editorial page editor, knew that certain statements in the editorial were false. The judge disagreed.
The case was a shocking one to even have made it onto a docket in any United States courtroom. It was the first libel lawsuit against the New York Times to actually go trial in almost 20 years. The lawsuit was first filed in 2017 after an editorial called "America’s Lethal Politics” written shortly after the shooting of GOP lawmakers at a baseball field in Alexandria, VA. The editorial talked passionately about gun ownership and toxic political discourse and "made a connection between the Alexandria shooting and a 2011 attack at a Tucson shopping center that left then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) gravely wounded and six other people dead." It then made a link to Sarah Palin, stating that “Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.”
But investigators never found a link between Palin's map and Giffords shooting. The Times corrected the error quickly, but not fast enough for Sarah Palin. Her initial filing was dismissed by the same judge, but an appellate court reversed his finding and it came right back to his docket...only to be dismissed now.
The Times celebrated the ruling, with a spokeswoman saying: “It is 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."
Meanwhile, the jury has actually not come back with a verdict.