Judge delays Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against NY Times after she tests positive for COVID-19

Judge delays Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against NY Times after she tests positive for COVID-19

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against the New York Times was scheduled to begin on Monday, January 24, but the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, has delayed the trial because Palin has tested positive for COVID-19.

Palin, a far-right anti-vaxxer, has been railing against COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates — and bragging about the fact that she has not been vaccinated. This is a very different position from that of former President Donald Trump, a Palin ally who opposes mandates but is encouraging Americans to receive COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. Trump has received a booster shot, while Palin has said she will get vaccinated “over my dead body.”

According to Reuters reporters Sonia Moghe and An Phung, “Prospective jurors had already started to assemble Monday morning in what was supposed to be the first day of the trial. Palin sued the paper in 2017 over an editorial that incorrectly linked the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Palin's political action committee that showed certain electoral districts under crosshairs. The Times corrected the error and apologized for it, and a judge initially dismissed the case. But a federal appeals court revived it, and as a result, a trial will now take place.”

Moghe and Phung note that in Palin v. the New York Times, the plaintiff and the defendants will make their arguments based on a standard set in another case involving that publication: New York Times v. Sullivan.

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1964 ruling in that case, Chief Justice Earl Warren — a Republican nominee of President Dwight D. Eisenhower — and the eight other justices unanimously ruled that in a defamation case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” And 58 years later, in Palin v. the New York Times, attorneys for the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee are claiming that the Times did act with “actual malice” — while the Times’ attorneys are arguing that the publication simply made an honest mistake.

Under the Sullivan standard, an honest mistake is not intentional defamation —there has to be “actual malice.”

This is the second time that Palin has tested positive for COVID-19. On March 31, 2021, People Magazine reported that Palin had been infected along with other members of her family and that her symptoms included losing her ability to smell or taste.

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