MANHATTAN (CN) — Urging a jury to hold The New York Times liable for libel, attorneys for the failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rested their case Friday with an emphasis that the newspaper was more than careless in linking Palin to a mass shooting.
“The line had to be drawn at some point,” Palin’s lawyer Kenneth Turkel said during in his closing argument this afternoon. “We can disagree but you can’t say false things. That’s where the line gets drawn.”
Palin alleged in her 2017 lawsuit that the New York Times “exceeded the bounds of legality, decency and civility” by bringing her name into an editorial on the day that a gunman wounded six Republican members of Congress practicing for a charity baseball game.
The article titled “America’s Lethal Politics” complained that overheated political rhetoric was feeding American gun violence, and it used the former governor of Alaska as an example. Though opinion editor James Bennet would remove this language within 24 hours, the original piece said Palin directly incited a shooting that happened some years earlier in Tucson, Arizona.
Palin herself took the stand as her case against the Times got underway this week, testifying on Thursday that she was “mortified” upon reading the words of the editorial because she was “familiar with what the power of the pen could do."
Turkel, an attorney for Palin with the law firm Turkel Cuva Barrios in Tampa, Fla., told jurors Friday the trial is about Palin "drawing a line in her life as to when enough is enough.”
Despite what the attorney called Palin's “thick skin” when it came to fielding insults and jokes after Senator John McCain chose her as his running mate in the 2008 presidential race, Turkel said she was nearly powerless to fend off the article falsely linking her to a murderous mass shooting.
“She did not have the same platform in 2017 as she had in 2008 or even in 2011 when the Tucson massacre occurred,” he told jurors.
“For whatever reason … they saw fit to not only resurrect this false accusation,” Turkel said in his closing summation. “But then, when confronted with clear undisputed accusations about the fact that it was false, engaged in some meaningless corrections that don’t mention her name, never apologize, and then come in here and testify they didn’t print her name in the corrections because they thought it would be ‘gracious’ to not print her name in the same sentence as the tragedy again, when they left it in the article the entire time."
Turkel called the Times’ handling of the editorial “indicative of an arrogance and a sense of power that’s uncontrolled, and for which Governor Palin’s only remedy is to use our judicial system.”
Shortly after Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at the "Congress on Your Corner" event that the then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was holding in the parking lot of a Tucson supermarket, a political action for committee for Palin edited a map that it had disseminated to remove the crosshairs marking 20 election districts controlled by Democrats, one of which was Giffords.
Because there was never any evidence that Loughner saw the map, however, the Times corrected its article to say that "no such link was established.
Palin's attorney reminded jurors Friday that the correction came after a conservative opinion columnist for the paper, Ross Douthat, emailed Bennet about the piece.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t express my bafflement at the editorial we just ran,” Douthat wrote to the editor, words that he repeated on the stand in witness testimony this week and that Turkel quoted today.