Sarah Palin testifies in libel case against The New York Times

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NEW YORK — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin testified Wednesday in her libel lawsuit against The New York Times, giving the jury folksy insight into her family life in Alaska and her rise in Republican politics.

Palin only testified for about 20 minutes at the end of the day in a civil trial in Manhattan federal court after a Times editor named as a defendant in the lawsuit testified at length.

She is due back in court on Thursday for a chance to get to the heart of the matter – her claim that the newspaper damaged her reputation with an editorial linking her campaign rhetoric to a mass shooting. Closing arguments are set for Friday.


Palin, 57, described herself to jurors as a single mother and grandmother who ‘holds the fort’ for her family in Alaska when she doesn’t advise contestants on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly ” politics. She also recalled the surprise at her emergence as a running mate in 2008, saying, “I don’t think they were prepared for me.”

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015.
(Associated Press)

In his own testimony, former Times editorial page editor James Bennet called the disputed wording implicating Palin a “terrible mistake” on his part. He added: “We are human beings. We make mistakes.”

“We are human beings. We make mistakes.”

—James Bennet, former NY Times editorial page editor

Palin sued The Times for unspecified damages in 2017, accusing it of hurting her career as a political commentator with the gun control op-ed published after U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana , was injured when a man with an anti-GOP history opened fire at a congressional baseball team practice in Washington.

In the editorial, the Times wrote that prior to the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that critically injured former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and killed six others, Palin’s political action committee had contributed to a atmosphere of violence by circulating a map of electoral districts that put Giffords and 19 other Democrats under a stylized crosshair.


In a correction two days later, the Times said the editorial had “incorrectly stated that a link existed between the political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting” and that it had “incorrectly described” the map.

The jury will have to decide whether Bennet acted with “actual malice,” meaning he knew what he wrote was untrue, or with a “reckless disregard” for the truth. A contrite Bennett admitted on Wednesday that he botched the edit but had no intention of doing any harm.

“I’ve regretted it pretty much every day since,” he said, adding, “It’s on me. It’s my failure.”

Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to his report.


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