It appears that President Donald Trump isn’t the only major political figure battling the media.
However, instead of using Twitter, former Governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is using the legal system.
She is suing The New York Times for defamation over a recent editorial tying one of her political action committee ads to a 2011 mass shooting that severely wounded Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords and killed six people.
The Manhattan federal court lawsuit, filed Tuesday by lawyers Kenneth Turkel, Shane Vogt and S. Preston Ricardo, accuses the Gray Lady of having “violated the law and its own policies” when it accused her — in a “fabricated story” — of inciting the 2011 attack by Jared Lee Loughner.
Palin, who emerged on the national political scene as running mate to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury at trial.
The lawsuit is in direct response to The Times’ controversial June 14th editorial about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise paper, which accused Palin of “political incitement” ahead of the 2011 shooting.
The paper said Palin incited the shooting, which left congresswoman Gabby Giffords with a severe brain injury, through an ad from her PAC that put “Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”
Can she prevail in court given the high bar set for public figures in showing defamation? There are many good reasons to think that she can.
To start with, her legal team already has experience winning high profile cases on behalf of its celebrity clients.
Her lawyers are Kenneth Turkel and Shane Vogt of the Tampa, Florida-based Bajo Cuva Cohen & Turkel, who were recently part of the legal team representing pro wrestling star Hulk Hogan—whose real name is Terry Bollea—in a famous invasion of privacy suit against Gawker.
…Turkel and Vogt were among the lawyers representing Hogan in a lawsuit stemming from Gawker’s publication on its website of a surreptitiously recorded video of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife.
In a result that sent chills down the spines of media executives and their companies’ in-house counsels, a Florida state court awarded Hogan a $140 million verdict.
Hogan, whose legal team was led by famed Beverly Hills lawyer Charles Harder, ended up settling with Gawker for $31 million. Gawker is now defunct, and its parent company, Gawker Media, was sold to Univision in the wake of its declaration of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Fox News Channel’s Gregg Jarrett notes that one element of a defamation case is that the plaintiff must show that the publisher knowingly published false information.
Ever since the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan, it has been nearly impossible for public figures to win, even though their good names have been roundly trashed by certain mendacious news organizations (which, I realize, is redundant).
But Palin’s lawsuit is different. Why? Because the newspaper’s own published stories demonstrate that the editorial it ran was false. A reasonable journalist would know it was false. You’d have to be a complete idiot not to know it.
Hence, the Times’ only defense to the Palin defamation case is to argue, “we’re idiots, we’re morons, we don’t read our own newspaper… so we never knew that what we were publishing was an obviously false and defamatory editorial. Again, we’re idiots.”
If “actual malice” is the hurdle over which the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate has to jump, that would seem to be a relatively low bar when it comes to the media. Few public figures have been as vilified as Mrs. Palin. After she electrified the convention crowd with her acceptance speech in 2008, a stunned media quickly regrouped and set out to destroy her. Until Donald Trump came along, she was the most hated political figure in America by the institutional, academic and media Left.
Malice? They had it in spades.
Finally, the case for defamation can be enhanced if the publisher does not offer a full and fair correction. Given the farcical nature of The New York Times correction, including the fact it never mentioned Palin by name, I think the Palin’s legal team can make a valid case that no such correction was offered.
55. The Times published a second online correction, which proved equally lacking. Still devoid of any reference to Mrs. Palin, this second correction (the “Second Attempted Correction”) was issued because the original column mischaracterized the subject map of targeted electoral districts as placing stylized cross hairs on Gabrielle Giffords and other lawmakers – individually – thus continuing to support the false narrative that there was a direct link between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s vicious attack.
It would be wonderful to see Palin’s team prevail in this legal battle. Karma and justice might be on her side.
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