Far-right GOP culture warrior Sarah Palin, who is running for a U.S. House seat in Alaska, hasn't given up her vendetta against the New York Times and has requested a new trial in her defamation lawsuit against the publication. But Palin's vendetta ran into a brick wall on Tuesday, May 31, when U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff denied her request.
Rakoff didn't mince words, emphasizing that Palin's case has not met the legal standard for defamation of a public official. That standard was set back in 1964 with the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous 9-0 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan. Under the Sullivan standard handed down by Chief Justice Earl Warren (a Republican appointee of President Dwight D. Eisenhower) and eight other justices, a public official in a defamation case must show "actual malice" — and Rakoff clearly doesn't believe that Palin has met that standard in her lawsuit against the Times.
A jury trial for Palin's case against the Times concluded in February, when a jury found that "that there was insufficient evidence to prove the newspaper had defamed her in a 2017 editorial that erroneously linked her political rhetoric to a mass shooting" in Arizona in 2011. Palin responded by requesting a new trial, but Rakoff doesn't believe that one is merited.
On May 31, Rakoff noted that while the Times made mistakes in that 2017 editorial, "a mistake is not enough to win if it was not motivated by actual malice."
Rakoff wrote, "The striking thing about the trial here was that Palin, for all her earlier assertions, could not in the end introduce even a speck of such evidence. Palin's motion is hereby denied in its entirety."
Attorneys for the Times have maintained that the 2017 editorial made an "honest mistake." According to the High Court's ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, an honest mistake involving a public official doesn't qualify as defamation — "actual malice" is necessary.
Rakoff's decision comes at a time when Palin is running for public office for the first time since 2008. That year, the former Alaska governor was GOP presidential nominee John McCain's running mate. When McCain lost the 2008 election to Democratic nominee Barack Obama, Palin had her position as governor of Alaska to fall back on. But in 2009, Palin resigned as Alaska governor.