NEW YORK (AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took her stand on Wednesday in her defamation lawsuit against the New York Times and gave the jury a popular overview of her family life in Alaska and her rise in Republican politics.
Palin testified in a civil trial in Manhattan federal court later that day, just about 20 minutes after a Times editor named as a defendant in the lawsuit testified at length.
She is scheduled to return to court on Thursday to address the heart of the case – her claim that the newspaper damaged its reputation with an editorial linking its campaign rhetoric to a mass shooting. The closing arguments are scheduled for Friday.
Palin, 57, described herself to jurors as a single mother and grandmother who “stands up for her family in Alaska” when she’s not advising candidates on “the good, bad, and ugly” of politics. She also recalled the surprise at her rise as a vice presidential nominee in 2008, saying, “I don’t think they were prepared for me.”
In his own testimony, former Times editorial page editor James Bennet called the controversial phrasing, which referred to Palin, a “horrible mistake” on his part. He added: “We are human. We make mistakes.”
Palin sued The Times in 2017 for unspecified damages, accusing it of damaging her career as a political commentator with the gun control editorial that was published after US Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was wounded , when a man with a history of anti-GOP was wounded in activity opened fire on a congressional baseball team’s practice session in Washington.
In the editorial, the Times wrote that before the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that seriously injured former US Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others, Palin’s political action committee had contributed to an atmosphere of violence by distributing a map of electoral districts , in which Giffords lay and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.
In a correction two days later, The Times said the editorial “mistakenly found a link between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting” and “misdescribed” the map.
The jury must determine whether Bennet acted “with actual malice,” meaning he knew what he wrote was wrong, or with “reckless disregard” of the truth. A contrite Bennet admitted Wednesday he screwed up the edit but intended no harm.
“I’ve regretted it every day since,” he said, adding, “It’s at my expense. This is my failure.”