It is almost impossible for a celebrity to win a defamation lawsuit because the bar is so much higher for them than it is for an ordinary citizen. In order to win such a suit, you need to prove three things. The first part is easy. Were you defamed? Was the defamation done with malice?
Everyone could know it was but you need evidence. And last but not least, you have to prove that they knew what they were saying was false.
Thanks to the discovery, Palin’s lawyers seem to be well on their way to proving all three. The case is over an ad that Palin ran that showed crosshairs over the districts that were being targeted for flipping. The ad showed twenty districts and the crosshairs were over the district, not a politician’s face. The ad was nothing new. Democrats had been using that kind of ad for many years.
An article in the NYT claimed that plain incited a nutjob to shoot Gabby Gifford and bystanders. But the shooter was not political, he was just plain nuts and the shooting took place quite a while after the ad ran. The Times could have been in the clear,r but as it turned out that during discovery her lawyers found out that the editorial board had been warned that the claims were just plain wrong.
That means they knew it was false and since they knew it, malice can be assumed. Why else would you print a lie?
The editorial, “America’s Lethal Politics,” made the already-debunked false claim: “Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”
The map in question showed crosshairs above congressional districts, not people. Breitbart News noted other discrepancies:
[T]he Tucson killer, Jared Loughner, was mentally disturbed and had no political motivations. As even the left-wing HuffPost reiterated Wednesday: “People said Jared Lee Loughner was motivated by politics. Reporting proved them wrong.” Second, Sarah Palin’s map was virtually identical to those used by Democrats for years, depicting targets atop contested congressional districts.
The UK Daily Mail reported:
Damning internal emails sent by members of the New York Times editorial board were made public today during the libel trial brought by Sarah Palin against the newspaper.
The emails were introduced by Palin’s lawyer Shane Vogt as he questioned Elizabeth Williamson, a journalist with the editorial section of the Times who wrote the first draft of the article.
In a message shown to the jury, Jesse Wegman, a member of the NYT editorial board, wrote that he worried the opinion piece that Palin sued over looked like they were trying to ‘sneak in’ a link between her and the 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.
The emails also show that the editors appear to have ignored the advice of a fact checker who pointed out that the map came out ‘months’ before the shooting – but the article only said ‘before’.