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 they

Sarah Palin v. New York Times Spotlights Push to Loosen Libel Law

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2022-01-23 23:00:13

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 they’ve been in decades.

When Donald J. Trump called for scrapping laws that offer the news media broad protection from libel suits — “We’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before,” he said in 2016 as he was running for president — 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. Trump’s seemingly far-fetched wish may no longer be so unthinkable.

A lot has changed in the country’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 “America’s Lethal Politics,” and the editorial asked whether the Virginia shooting was evidence of how vicious American politics had become.

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