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New York Times defamation case about power, not politics, Palin’s


© Reuters. Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, arrives with former NHL hockey player Ron Duguay during her defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New

By Jonathan Stempel and Jody Godoy

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sarah Palin fell victim to the New York Times’ power when it published a 2017 editorial linking her to a mass shooting six years earlier, a lawyer for Palin said on Friday at her defamation trial against the newspaper.

In his closing argument in federal court in Manhattan, Palin’s lawyer Kenneth Turkel urged jurors to find that the Times and its former editorial page editor, James Bennet, harmed the reputation of Palin, a former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate.

Alluding to Palin’s testimony about being a mother and grandmother still living in her Wasilla, Alaska, hometown, Turkel accused the newspaper of being “keen” on “turning a blind eye” to the facts.

The crux of the dispute is “power, and lack of power,” Turkel said.

“The Times resurrected a horrific, false accusation (that) in its simplest form accused Governor Palin of inciting the murder of six people,” he said. “All they had to do is care the slightest bit. All they had to do is dislike her a little less, and we’re not sitting here today.”

A lawyer for the Times is expected to deliver a closing argument on Friday.

The trial is in its seventh day.

Palin, 58, is seeking unspecified damages for harm to her reputation. She cannot obtain punitive damages.

The former governor has signaled that if she lost, she would use the case to challenge New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established strong legal protection for American news media organizations against defamation claims by public figures.

Jurors will decide whether Palin proved with clear and convincing evidence that the Times and Bennet acted with “actual malice,” meaning they knew the editorial was false or had reckless disregard for the truth.

Palin’s lawsuit concerns “America’s Lethal Politics,” a June 14, 2017, editorial addressing gun control and lamenting the increase in incendiary political rhetoric.

It incorrectly linked Palin to the January 2011 shooting in a Tucson, Arizona, parking lot where six people were killed and then-Democratic U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded.

The editorial was written after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia where Republican U.S. congressman Steve Scalise was severely wounded.

Bennet inserted language that drew an incorrect connection between the Giffords shooting and a map from Palin’s political action committee that the editorial said put 20 Democrats, including Giffords, under crosshairs.

“The link to political incitement was clear,” the editorial said. It was corrected the next morning.

In 3-1/2 hours of testimony over two days, Palin…


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