Sarah Palin must have a pretty deep pockets behind her defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. The former Alaskan governor has reportedly subpoenaed almost two dozen newspaper staffers, most of whom have nothing to do with the case.
IM reported last month that the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential candidate had filed the lawsuit, seemingly out of the blue, in a bid to “Gawker” the newspaper with expensive litigation.
The Gawker case, which resulted in the Web site’s bankruptcy, is notable because Peter Thiel, the right-wing gay Silicon Valley mogul, was secretly bankrolling the case on behalf of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan.
He was grinding an ax against Gawker for revealing his sexual orientation in 2007 article posted on sister site ValleyWag.
Whether he won or lost the case was immaterial. Thiel was using his bankroll in an attempt to exhaust Gawker financially.
His actions may well be the biggest abuse of the judicial process in the nation’s history. It’s chilling effect on free speech so far is incalculable, but definitely real.
And, now possibly growing.
Palin is suing in Federal District Court in Manhattan, because a Times editorial drew a connection between one of her political action committee ads and the mass shooting that left then-Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords severely injured.
The ad put cross-hairs on congressional districts in the midst of a heated campaign that included daily threats of violence.
Not long afterward, Giffords, whose district was targeted, was gunned down in a parking lot campaign rally. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl.
Palin’s case is especially weak because the Supreme Court has granted the news media wide leeway when it comes to reporting on public officials.
To win a libel, or defamation, action, a public official must show the outlet acted maliciously with reckless disregard for the truth.
The Times piece clearly falls within the realm of protected speech.
But Palin asserts The Times’ article “violated the law and its own policies,” claiming it accused her of inciting the 2011 attack. The Times ran a clarification after the editorial was published.
IM reported at the time that Palin may be trying to put financial pressure on the newspaper in an effort to curtail its coverage of the Trump administration.
Her plan to subpoena so many staffers feeds into that narrative.
Lawyers for The Times noted in a court filing that “twenty-three non-party current and former Times reporters, editors and other employees — most of whom had nothing to do with the editorial at issue” may be called for pre-trial testimony.
Palin also plans to make a sweeping request for “every internal communication it has had about her since 2011,” the newspaper noted.
The Times complained about Palin’s discovery requests in a motion seeking summary judgment to dismiss the case. It said there was no “malice” in the publication.
Palin’s lawyers claim The Times knew the statements in the editorial were false, but “fabricated the link anyway” to drive web traffic, according to The New York Post.
Although right-wing commentators and President Donald Trump like to portray the newspaper as “failing,” The Times reported today (July 27) that its paid circulation hit an all-time high of 3.3 million subscribers.