On Tuesday evening, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin hired Hulk Hogan’s lawyers and sued the New York Times for defamation for falsely accusing her in a June 14 editorial of inciting Jared Lee Loughner to shoot Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). The Times’ editorial was published on the day that James Hodgkinson shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) while he was practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game with his GOP teammates.
“Today, Sarah Palin took a stand against The New York Times Company by filing a lawsuit which seeks to hold The Times accountable for stating that Governor Palin is part of a ‘sickeningly familiar pattern’ of politically motivated violence and that she incited the horrific 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords, a tragedy where the gunman seriously wounded numerous people and killed 6, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl,” Palin’s lawyers—Ken Turkel, Shane Vogt, and S. Preston Ricardo—said in a statement.
The complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court in the Southern District of New York, states that “at the time of publication, The Times knew and had published pieces acknowledging that there was no connection between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s 2011 shooting.”
“In doing so, The Times violated the law and its own policies,” it reads.
Messrs. Turkel, Vogt, and Ricardo said Palin “seeks to hold The Times to its November 13, 2016, pledge [‘to rededicate itself to reporting facts honestly and holding power to account’], and to face both journalistic and financial accountability for the false statements that it published about Mrs. Palin.”
As Breitbart News previously noted, Palin indicated on Twitter that she was “considering suing the New York Times for libel” the day after the Times published its editorial even though “it has long been established that there has never been any evidence whatsoever linking Palin to the attempted assassination.”
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) June 15, 2017
(2/2) …WHY someone would no longer be in public eye? Think constant libel & slander have anything to do with it?
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) June 15, 2017
Here is what the Times originally wrote in its editorial:
Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.
The Times, after much public backlash from even Palin’s harshest critics on the left and right, then issued two subsequent corrections.
After adding that “no connection to the shooting was ever established” to its original editorial, the Times issued this correction on June 15:
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.
But the Times never corrected that it had falsely stated that Palin had put “Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs” when Palin did no such thing.
Later in the day on June 15, the Times edited its editorial again to note that Palin’s map “showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”
It then issued its second correction:
The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.
Yet, in a statement to CNN, the Times insisted that their errors did not “undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.”
Palin’s lawyers pointed out that “despite recognizing that its statements about Mrs. Palin in the June 14, 2017 column ‘America’s Lethal Politics’ are not true, The Times repeatedly failed to meaningfully retract or correct its column and apologize to Mrs. Palin for publishing it. Rather, The Times issued a statement affirming that its ‘error doesn’t undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.’”
To prove that the Times had “ample facts available that established that there was no connection between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s crime,” the lawyers point to an article the Times published on January 15, 2011, that “recognized that no direct or clear link between political rhetoric and Loughner’s actions could be claimed.” In addition, the lawyers point out that New York Times columnist Charles Blow once wrote that “the only problem is that there was no evidence then, and even now, that overheated rhetoric from the right had anything to do with the shooting” of Giffords.
The lawyers also refer to Blow’s column, “She Who Must Not Be Named,” that was critical of the left’s and the establishment press’s continued coverage of Palin. In Blow’s column, he asks, “What purpose does it serve other than inflaming passions to drive viewership and Web clicks?”
The complaint points out that Blow’s “column acknowledges that there is existing hostility held toward Mrs. Palin, and also recognizes that her name and attacks upon her inflame passions and thereby drive viewership and Web clicks to media companies.”
“The Times published the Palin Article with actual knowledge that stories attacking Mrs. Palin inflame passions, which drives viewership and Web clicks,” the complaint further reads. “Thus, The Times knowingly and voluntarily exploited and retained a benefit conferred by Mrs. Palin, in special circumstances particular to this case in which it would be inequitable for The Times to retain that benefit without paying the value thereof to Mrs. Palin.”
Palin’s attorneys argue that the Times’ “conduct was committed knowingly, intentionally, willfully, wantonly and maliciously, with the intent to harm Mrs. Palin, or in blatant disregard of the substantial likelihood of causing her harm, thereby entitling Mrs. Palin to an award of punitive damages.”
Two of Palin’s lawyers–Messrs. Turkel and Vogt–successfully represented Hulk Hogan in his $140 million invasion of privacy suit against Gawker after Gawker published Hogan’s sex tape. As noted on the firm’s website, they “convinced a Pinellas County jury to award Terry Bollea, professionally known as Hulk Hogan, $55 million in economic damages and another $60 million in damages for emotional distress. The jury awarded an additional $25.1 million in punitive damages, making the verdict one of the largest contested verdicts in Pinellas County history.”