The trial comes at a time when those who argue that news outlets should pay a steeper price for getting something wrong are more emboldened than theyâ€™ve been in decades.
When Donald J. Trump called for scrapping laws that offer the news media broad protection from libel suits â€” â€śWeâ€™re going to have people sue you like youâ€™ve never got sued before,â€ť he said in 2016 as he was running for president â€” many journalists and the lawyers who defend them brushed it off as an empty threat.
But a libel case that begins Monday in federal court in Lower Manhattan, Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company, shines a spotlight on the many ways that Mr. Trumpâ€™s seemingly far-fetched wish may no longer be so unthinkable.
A lot has changed in the countryâ€™s political and legal landscape since Ms. Palin, a former Alaska governor, filed her suit in 2017. It alleges that The Times defamed her with an editorial that incorrectly asserted a link between her political rhetoric and a mass shooting near Tucson, Ariz., in 2011 that left six people dead and 14 wounded, including Gabrielle Giffords, then a Democratic member of Congress.
The editorial was published on June 14, 2017, the same day that a gunman opened fire at a baseball field where Republican congressmen were practicing, injuring several people including Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. The headline was â€śAmericaâ€™s Lethal Politics,â€ť and the editorial asked whether the Virginia shooting was evidence of how vicious American politics had become.