Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial against New York Times until February

Palin is suing Times over 2017 editorial that falsely linked her PAC's cross hairs ad to Giffords shooting

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Sarah Palin's defamation trial against the New York Times has been delayed after the former Alaska governor tested positive for coronavirus.

Manhattan federal court Judge Jed Rakoff announced Palin's diagnosis in court on Monday, according to reports, noting that Palin was unvaccinated. She received a separate positive test Monday morning, leading the judge to push the trial until Feb. 3, as long as Palin is asymptomatic at that point.  

Palin sued the Times in 2017 over an editorial from the left-leaning board that linked a Palin political action committee ad about repealing Obamacare – which showed cross hairs on a map of Democratic congressional districts – to the 2011 shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona. Giffords was severely wounded after being shot in the head, and six others were killed.

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The Times piece was edited and corrected the day after it was published to clarify there was no known link between the shooter and Palin’s ad. 

"An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords," the Times correction stated. "In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs."

Public figures have a higher burden of proof in defamation cases, but in 2020, Rakoff said there was "sufficient evidence to allow a rational finder of fact to find actual malice by clear and convincing evidence" and said the lawsuit could go to trial. Rakoff had initially dismissed the claim before an appeal, according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

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Palin's lawsuit is being closely watched given the First Amendment and libel law issues at stake for newspapers and media organizations.

Palin vaulted to national prominence as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee. After previously contracting coronavirus in 2021, she recently said she would never get the vaccine.

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Fox News' Brie Stimson contributed to this report.