Unvaccinated Sarah Palin tests positive for Covid, delaying New York Times defamation trial

Former Alaska governor recently proclaimed ‘over my dead body’ will she be vaccinated against Covid-19

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 24 January 2022 17:04 GMT
Sarah Palin says 'over my dead body' will authorities make her have a covid vaccine shot
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Sarah Palin, who is not vaccinated against Covid-19, tested positive for the virus as the former Republican governor of Alaska and right-wing figure begins a trial against The New York Times, which she has accused of defamation.

US District Court Judge Jed Rakoff told the court on 24 January that Ms Palin “is, of course, unvaccinated”.

Following positive results from three rapid antigen tests on Monday morning, Judge Rakoff moved the start of the trial to 3 February.

“It’ll be over my dead body that I’ll have to get a shot,” Ms Palin announced at the right-wing conference AmericaFest 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona last month. “I will not do that. I won’t do it, and they better not touch my kids either.”

Jury selection in the trial was set to begin in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Monday, nearly four years after she filed a libel lawsuit against the newspaper over an editorial incorrectly linking a 2011 shooting of congresswoman Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Ms Palin’s political action committee that circled Democratic districts with crosshairs.

The newspaper, where the opinion section is independent of the newsroom, quickly corrected the error and apologised to Ms Palin, who has accused the newspaper and then-editorial board editor James Bennet of knowingly publishing false information.

The column was published the day after a gunman fired on a group of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, in June 2017.

Ms Palin has sought a jury trial, at which her attorneys have said she wishes to be present.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed after Judge Rakoff found that her allegations failed to show a newspaper knew it was publishing false statements with “actual malice”.

“Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States. In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made,” he wrote.

That decision was overturned by a federal appeals court.

Ms Palin – the former vice presidential nominee alongside GOP presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 – is seeking unspecified damages. She estimates $421,000 in damages to her reputation, according to court filings.

The case is expected to test the precedent-setting US Supreme Court decision in TheNew York Times vs Sullivan , which found that public officials must prove “actual malice” when a defamatory error is published.

The complaint alleges Mr Bennet had “actual knowledge that the false and defamatory statements he wrote and The Times published about Mrs Palin were untrue”.

“Alternatively, Mr Bennet and the Times published the Palin Article with reckless disregard for and a purposeful avoidance of the truth,” according to the complaint.

New York Times spokesman Jordan Cohen told The Independent they were seeking to “reaffirm a foundational principle of American law: public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish unintentional errors by news organisations.

“We published an editorial about an important topic that contained an inaccuracy. We set the record straight with a correction.

“We are deeply committed to fairness and accuracy in our journalism, and when we fall short, we correct our errors publicly, as we did in this case.”

Potential jurors will be asked whether they have opinions of Ms Palin, The New York Times, gun control and the Second Amendment, and whether they are familiar with the 2011 shooting in Arizona, know someone who has been a victim of gun violence, and how they get their news.

Jurors will be asked to determined whether The New York Times knowingly published a defamatory statement, “meaning the statement tended to expose the plaintiff to public hatred, contempt, ridicule or disgrace,” according to jury instructions.

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