Fake News Prompts Real Lawsuit

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/06/27/fake-news-prompts-real-lawsuit/

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has filed a lawsuit against the New York Times, alleging defamation, weeks after the newspaper falsely connected a political campaign map she made featuring crosshairs over Democratic districts with the 2011 shooting of Arizona U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords.

The 25-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York, charges the Times with “publishing a statement about [Palin] that it knew to be false: that Mrs. Palin was responsible for inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011.”

The Times column, titled “America’s Lethal Politics,” was published in response to the June 14 attack by James Hodgkinson, a man the Times described as a “Bernie Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer virulently opposed to President Trump” who attempted to gun down a group of GOP members of Congress and their aides as they practiced on a Virginia baseball field ahead of the annual charity Congressional Baseball Game.

“These defamatory statements about Mrs. Palin were circulated to millions of the Times’ readers in print, online, and through mobile and social media.” the complaint states. “The Times used its false assertion about Mrs. Palin as an artifice to exploit the shooting.”

The lawsuit also points out that the newspaper, which clearly linked Palin to the 2011 shooting in Arizona by Jared Lee Laughter, oddly attempted to dismiss any connection between Hodgkinson’s politics and his attack in Virginia earlier this month, despite copious amounts of evidence to the contrary.

“Moreover, The Times’ false statements about the link between Mrs. Palin and the Loughner shooting stood in stark contrast to how The Times treated speculation about political motives behind Hodgkinson’s rampage:  The Times concluded that there was not a connection between Hodgkinson and his professed penchant for Democratic stances sufficient to warrant implicating Democrats or the Bernie Sanders campaign as inciting factors for Hodgkinson’s attack.”

There was, however, evidence in the form of a GOP hit-list note discovered in Hodgkinson’s possession at the time of his attempted massacre.

Palin’s complaint further notes that the Times remained stubborn in its assertion that Hodgkinson’s shooting was not driven by politics — the newspaper, the lawsuit points out, “sought to set the record straight by tweeting a ‘Fact Check’ on June 15, 2017, directed at those who it wrote were ‘falsely blaming’ Bernie Sanders and other Democrats for Hodgkinson’s Virginia shooting.”

The lawsuit pointed out that the “public backlash” in response to the editorial prompted the Times to respond by making a series of edits and corrections, “along with half-hearted Twitter apologies — none of which sufficiently corrected the falsehoods that the paper published” while “none mentioned Mrs. Palin or acknowledged that Mrs. Palin did not incite a deranged man to commit murder.”

“Mrs. Palin brings this action to hold the Times accountable for falsely stating to millions of people that she, a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, who committed a substantial portion of her adult life to public service, is part of a pattern of ‘lethal’ politics and responsible for inciting an attack that seriously injured numerous people and killed six, including a nine-year-old girl who, at that time, was the same age as Mrs. Palin’s youngest daughter,” the complaint added.

The lawsuit also listed several examples citing reports and additional columns, published in the Times, that refute the notion that Palin’s political activity motivated Loughner.

The lawsuit also picks apart, piece-by-piece, the edits and corrections made to the original editorial, which it claims were “woefully insufficient.” In one example, Palin’s complaint points out that the phrase “the link to political incitement was clear” was deleted, but a later phrase, “though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack,” was left intact.

“Given that the entire premise of the Palin article was the ‘disturbing pattern’ of politically incited violence emanating from a non-existent link between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s 2011 crime, which the Times conceded did not exist, the entire Palin Article should have been retracted – not minimally and inadequately corrected – and the Times should have apologized to Mrs. Palin,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit also pointed to a statement issued to CNN by Times editorial board member James Bennet, in which he stated in part, “we made an error of fact in the editorial and we’ve corrected it, but that error doesn’t undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.”

“Mr. Bennet’s statement demonstrates that, when it comes to Mrs. Palin, the Times is willing to operate with a purposeful avoidance of the truth – marked by a deliberate decision not to acknowledge facts confirming the falsity of its charges against Mrs. Palin,” the lawsuit claims.

Should Palin prevail in her libel suit, it would mark the first time any entity has prevailed against the Times “since at least the early 1960s,” according to a May 10 column written by Liz Spayd, the newspaper’s former public editor.

The lawsuit claims that the Times acted “with actual malice” in regards to Palin.

Read a copy of the lawsuit:

2017-06-27 Palin v Times by Evan on Scribd