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Sarah Palin has Covid, delaying New York Times libel case

Sarah Palin has tested positive for coronavirus, forcing her libel lawsuit against The New York Times to be postponed until next week. The trial, which was due to begin with jury selection on Monday morning, is now scheduled to start on February 3.

Ms. Palin’s in-person testimony in a Lower Manhattan federal courtroom this week was expected to be one of the focal points of the trial. Ms Palin sued The Times in 2017 after it published an op-ed falsely claiming a link between her political rhetoric and the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, which left six dead and seriously injured then-Democrat Gabrielle Giffords of Congress. The Times later corrected the editorial.

Ms. Palin’s attorney, Kenneth G. Turkel, said in court Monday that his client, the former governor of Alaska, still wanted to appear.

“She wants to be here for jury selection, she wants to testify live,” Mr. Turkel told the judge, Jed S. Rakoff. Ms Palin underwent three tests, all of which came back positive, according to the judge. He also said she was not vaccinated.

Rarely does a libel case against a major news agency like The Times advance to the point of reaching a jury. It’s even less common for the Times to lose one of these cases – it hasn’t happened in 50 years in a US court.

The law provides strong protections for journalists and the media when a public figure like Ms. Palin accuses them of defamation. The Supreme Court has said that it is not enough for a public figure to prove that his reputation has been tarnished; the editor of the damaging report must have acted with “actual malice” in knowing that the information was false or in displaying a reckless disregard for the truth.

But Ms Palin’s lawyers have argued in court and in public that the law is too broad to protect journalists from liability. The broader constitutional questions about the limits of press protections will not be raised in this lawsuit, but they do weigh in on the case, which is being watched closely by media organizations and First Amendment scholars.