Former Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin filed an amended complaint in her defamation lawsuit against the New York Times on Monday afternoon.
The 52-page amended final complaint is a lengthy preview of the legal arguments and factual bases that will likely be argued in the upcoming jury trial against the storied paper of record.
“Gov. Palin brings this action to hold James Bennet and The Times accountable for defaming her by falsely asserting what they knew to be false: that Gov. Palin was clearly and directly responsible for inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011,” the filing begins. “Specifically, on June 14, 2017, The Times published an editorial authored in the name of its Editorial Board (which represents the “voice” of The Times) that falsely stated as a matter of fact to millions of people that Gov. Palin incited Jared Loughner’s January 8, 2011, mass shooting at a political event in Tucson, Arizona.”
Palin’s lawsuit was originally filed less than two weeks after the aforementioned editorial was published. After over two years’ worth of procedural wrangling back-and-forth, victories and setbacks on both sides, a federal court in New York City developed a case management plan stipulating the substantive pre-trial procedures in mid-December. Palin’s amended pleading was filed in line with the rules laid out by Senior U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff on December 16.
Law&Crime previously reported on the outlet’s failed efforts to have the case reheard by the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of the same court resurrected Palin’s defamation claim in August citing an “unusual method” employed by the Southern District of New York (SDNY) to originally dismiss the case.
Palin’s lawsuit singles out The Times‘ editorial page editor James Bennet as the premier culprit in the ongoing libel imbroglio.
“The primary author of the defamatory passages in the Palin Article, James Bennet, is a seasoned journalist and editor with decades of experience who served as the Editor-In- Chief of The Atlantic at the time of the Loughner Shooting,” the filing continues. “When Mr. Bennet wrote and The Times published the defamatory passages in the Palin Article, they had actual knowledge that there was no direct and clear link between Gov. Palin and the Loughner Shooting and that Gov. Palin did not politically incite Loughner’s horrific crime.”
At the time of that mass shooting, several online commentators noted that Palin’s political action committee SarahPAC had recently released an advertisement that superimposed artificial crosshairs on congressional districts held by Democrats. One such district was Arizona’s 8th–at the time held by then-representative Gabby Giffords, who would suffer extreme and life-altering injuries due to the shooting.
The filing also dishes on a line of attack against Bennet that attempts to explain his modus operandi for allegedly faulting Palin over the Loughner shooting.
Per that complaint:
Mr. Bennet is an ardent gun-control advocate who harbors deep-seeded resentment and animus toward Gov. Palin and her political views.
And, Palin’s attorneys assert, Bennet and The Times dredged up the Loughner mass shooting in order to draw attention away from politicized violence targeting Republicans.
Again, the filing:
[Bennet’s] ill-will and hostility [toward Palin] motivated Mr. Bennet and The Times to use the false assertions of fact about Gov. Palin’s incitement of and “direct” and “clear” link to Loughner’s Shooting as an artifice to exploit and score political points using the shooting that occurred on June 14, 2017, when James Hodgkinson, a man The Times described as a “Bernie Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer virulently opposed to President Trump,” launched a sniper-style attack with an assault rifle upon members of Congress and current and former congressional aides practicing for the annual charity Congressional Baseball Game at a field near the Capitol in Virginia.
“As early reports about the Hodgkinson shooting sparked speculation about whether his actions were motivated by liberal, anti-Republican political rhetoric, Mr. Bennet was outraged and decided to respond by reviving what he knew to be debunked speculation that Gov.Palin incited Loughner’s Shooting,” the filing continues. “To do so, Mr. Bennet ignored his own knowledge of the facts surrounding the Loughner Shooting, the well-known consensus (including within The Atlantic and The Times) that Gov. Palin’s political activities played no role in Loughner’s Shooting, readily available information and articles about the Loughner Shooting, and the most basic and fundamental tenants of ethical journalism.”
But, the filing argues, Bennet didn’t simply make a mistake–he allegedly intentionally misrepresented the facts.
“Incredulously, at the time of publication Mr. Bennet knew about, remembered and had published, reviewed, edited and approved numerous articles/columns confirming that there was no established connection between Gov. Palin and Loughner’s 2011 Shooting,” the complaint alleges.
Palin is suing The Times and Bennet on a single count of defamation by libel and seeking various damages in excess of $75,000–as well as “restitution in the form of The Times’ advertising revenues attributable to the” editorial in question.
[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]