MANHATTAN (CN) — Sarah Palin sued The New York Times on Tuesday, claiming it defamed her in a June 14 editorial that blamed her for inciting Jared Loughner’s 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed a federal judge and five other people.
Before the Jan. 8, 2011, massacre, Palin’s political action committee had published a map with crosshairs, as in a gunsight, over Giffords’ congressional district and those of 19 other Democrats. The crosshairs were removed shortly after the murders.
Palin claims in her federal lawsuit that the Times used the Tucson shooting “as an artifice to exploit the shooting that occurred on June 14, 2017,” when James Hodgkinson shot up a baseball practice by congressional Republicans.
The gist of her lawsuit states, in the third of its 98 paragraphs: “In its prominently placed column ‘America’s Lethal Politics,’ The Times capitalized on Mrs. Palin’s name and Loughner’s and Hodgkinson’s horrific attacks to support its assertion that there was a ‘sickeningly familiar pattern’ of politically motivated violence against members of Congress. This supposed ‘pattern’ consisted of two events: (1) what The Times falsely identified as Mrs. Palin’s ‘clear’ and ‘direct’ incitement of Loughner’s 2011 assault against Representative Giffords and other innocent bystanders in Tucson, Arizona; and (2) Hodgkinson’s Virginia shooting.”
Palin claims that since Loughner killed six people, including a little girl, and severely wounded Giffords, The Washington Post reported: “Loughner had no clear political views. Instead he was a troubled man who abused alcohol and drugs, and whose mental illness was apparent to his classmates and family even before he was diagnosed as schizophrenic during his court trial.”
Loughner pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Palin claims that though the Times apologized to readers for its recent editorial, “and posted two woefully insufficient online ‘corrections,’” the paper did not “meaningfully retract it [the editorial] or apologize.”
She says that the first edit of the editorial “merely deleted the phrase “the link to political incitement was clear,’” and added the words “But no connection to that crime was ever established.”
Her complaint continues: “The Times left in place, however, an inconsistent and defamatory sentence in the next paragraph of the column, which stated: ‘Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of others.’”
The Times then cut the phrase “Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack,” and issued what the calls its First Attempted Correction, on June 15: “An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link exited between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.”
In the second online correction, on June 16, which Palin calls “equally lacking,” the Times published: “An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2001 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. 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.”
Palin objects, among other things, that the Times did not mention her name in the corrections.
She seeks punitive damages for defamation. She is represented by S. Preston Ricardo, with Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe, in New York City.
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