NEW YORK, N.Y. – A federal appeals panel seems poised to reinstate a defamation lawsuit Sarah Palin brought against The New York Times after hearing oral arguments Friday.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan found it unusual that a judge tossed the lawsuit last year after hearing testimony from a single witness.
The onetime Republican vice-presidential nominee sued over an editorial titled “America’s Lethal Politics.” The editorial was published in June 2017 after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers in Virginia, wounding U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.
The Times’ editorial was corrected twice when readers complained that it appeared to blame a political action committee belonging to Palin for “political incitement” after it distributed a map depicting Democratic lawmakers beneath crosshairs before the 2011 shooting of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona.
The editorial originally was published online late in the evening. The newspaper issued corrections online the next morning and in print editions the day after that to remove those references and note the map showed electoral districts, not people, in crosshairs.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff tossed out the lawsuit last year after conducting a hearing in which he heard testimony from James Bennet, the Times’ editorial page editor. Bennet said he thought the editorial was accurate when he approved its publication but later learned otherwise.
Circuit Judge Denny Chin said he agreed that the hearing was unusual.
District Judge John F. Keenan, assigned temporarily to the appeals court, said it was “tremendously unusual to have a hearing like this.”
Circuit Judge John M. Walker Jr. said Rakoff heard the testimony of the editorial page editor of the Times and “then he decides the position of The New York Times is more plausible than the other side.”
The appeals panel did not immediately rule.