(Headline USA) A judge said Monday he’ll dismiss a libel lawsuit that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin filed against The New York Times, claiming the newspaper damaged her reputation with an editorial falsely linking her campaign rhetoric to a mass shooting.
In what many in the legal community considered an oddly preemptive move, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, a Clinton-appointee, made the ruling with a jury still deliberating at a New York City trial where the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate testified last week.
The judge said Palin had failed to show that The Times had acted out of malice, something required in libel lawsuits involving public figures.
Rakoff says he’ll let jury deliberations continue in case his decision winds up being reversed on appeal. The judge is surely hoping that no one on the jury learns he has already made a ruling that takes the case out of their hands, before they reach a decision.
Lawyers for both Palin and The Times declined to immediately comment on the judge’s decision.
Palin sued The Times in 2017, claiming the newspaper had damaged her career as a political commentator and consultant with the editorial about gun control published after U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was wounded when a man with a history of anti-GOP activity opened fire on a Congressional baseball team practice in Washington.
In the editorial, The Times wrote that before the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that severely wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others, Palin’s political action committee had contributed to an atmosphere of violence by circulating a map of electoral districts that put Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.
The Times acknowledged that the editorial wrongly described both the map, and any link to the shooting, but said the mistake wasn’t intentional.
The Times, however, ran several subsequent articles and editorials that made reference to Palin, under the guise of Republican discontent that was fomenting the potential for violence, linking her in the public’s mind to the shooting.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press