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Court Revives Palin's Tossed Lawsuit Against Times

Defamation case involves editorial after mass shooting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 6, 2019 2:07 PM CDT
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Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Alabama in 2017.   (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

(Newser) – A defamation lawsuit Sarah Palin brought against the New York Times was restored by a federal appeals court Tuesday, giving the onetime Republican vice presidential nominee an opportunity to prove her claims that the newspaper falsely accused her of inciting a mass shooting that severely wounded a congresswoman. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower-court judge tossed out the lawsuit too quickly without giving Palin a chance to obtain email records and other evidence that might aid her lawyers, the AP reports. Still, the decision by a three-judge panel said Palin's burden of proof was high to prove that the newspaper acted with actual malice when it published an editorial titled "America's Lethal Politics." The Manhattan judges said they took no position on the merits of Palin's claim. "Nothing in this opinion should therefore be construed to cast doubt on the First Amendment's crucial constitutional protections," the 2nd Circuit said. It said it recognized that "First Amendment protections are essential to provide 'breathing space' for freedom of expression."

Palin sued the Times for unspecified damages after the editorial about gun control was published following the June 2017 shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise on a baseball diamond in Washington. The Times wrote that before the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords, Palin's political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs. The editorial was criticized by some readers who challenged the notion that the map constituted "political incitement" or that there was any link between it and the Arizona shooting, Times lawyers have said. The Times lawyers have said the newspaper revised the online version of the editorial the next morning to remove those references and to make clear that the crosshairs on the map appeared over Giffords' district rather than over her name or image. An online correction clarified that there was no established link between "political rhetoric" and Giffords' shooting, per CNBC. A Times spokesperson said Tuesday in an email: "We are disappointed in the decision and intend to continue to defend the action vigorously."

(Read more Sarah Palin stories.)

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