Sarah Palin Diagnosed With COVID Before New York Times Lawsuit Trial
NEW YORK — Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was diagnosed with COVID-19 this weekend, which delayed her defamation lawsuit against The New York Times that was scheduled for a trial beginning Monday.
Palin reported her illness to Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court in New York on Sunday. The judge said Palin was unvaccinated.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday but now has been rescheduled to Feb. 3.
The trial is again testing the limits of fair comment by the news media in its criticisms of political leaders.
Palin accuses The New York Times of defaming her in a 2017 editorial that implied one of her political ads incited a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona. Six people were killed by the apparently deranged gunman. U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was seriously injured by a bullet to her head.
The ad from Palin’s Republican political action committee displayed stylized gun crosshairs over 20 congressional districts held by Democrats, including Giffords’.
The newspaper editorial ran shortly after another shooting during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. A gunman shot and seriously injured Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.
While tensions ran high about assassination attempts against lawmakers, the editorial noted that “the link to political incitement was clear” between the map circulated by Palin’s political action committee and the 2011 shooting in Arizona.
The New York Times later retracted any implication Palin’s political rhetoric led to the 2011 Arizona shootings. Editorial page editor James Bennet said he never intended to blame Palin.
Nevertheless, Palin said Bennet had enough experience to know that his words were defamatory.
Her lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Rakoff wrote in his order of dismissal that Palin failed to prove the editorial demonstrated the malice needed to defame a public figure.
“Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not,” Rakoff wrote.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit and sent it back to Rakoff for a jury trial, which was originally expected to last all of this week.
Palin, 57, was diagnosed with COVID-19 using an at-home test. Last March, she contracted the disease for the first time.
She told a conservative group of her supporters last month that she would get a COVID-19 vaccination “over my dead body.”
Palin is a former governor of Alaska who resigned to run unsuccessfully for vice president along with presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona in 2008. She said last August she was considering a run for the U.S. Senate.
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