Last week, the New York Times Company moved to dismiss a defamation suit brought by Sarah Palin over a New York Times editorial drawing a connection between SarahPAC’s publication of a “crosshairs map” referencing Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the mass shooting where she was wounded in 2011 (see our previous coverage of the suit here).
The Times argues that SarahPAC cannot be considered an alter ego of its namesake, meaning that the editorial was not “of and concerning” her:
In this case, the plain words of the Editorial refer to “Sarah Palin’s political action committee”—not to Mrs. Palin herself. That committee, which operated under the name “SarahPAC,” was a creature of federal law. According to Federal Elections Commission records (of which the Court may take judicial notice, see supra n.2), SarahPAC was founded in 2009 and ceased operations at the end of 2016. A political action committee (“PAC”) “is a business, labor, or interest group that raises or spends money in connection with a federal election, in some cases by contributing to candidates . . . While these PACs may be associated with a candidate for federal office, they remain legally unaffiliated with the candidate’s principal campaign committee . . . ” Significantly, Mrs. Palin does not allege that she and her eponymous political action committee are or were alter egos such that a reference to one is necessarily a reference to the other. Indeed, she does not plead any personal role or involvement at all in the control or operation of SarahPAC.
The Times further argues that its speculation as to the connection between the “crosshairs map” and the shooting is just that:
Palin’s fundamental contention, that there is “no link” between the Map and Loughner, “direct” or otherwise, is just as speculative as the Editorial which, after all, speaks only of a “link” between “political incitement” and the Arizona tragedy. What motivated or influenced Loughner is unknown—perhaps even by him. . . . . [W]hether or not Loughner was influenced—directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly—by the Crosshairs Map or any of the other contemporaneous political rhetoric is not capable of being proven true or false. As a result, the meaning attributed to the Editorial by Mrs. Palin is not actionable in defamation.
Palin’s response is due July 21st, and an oral argument before Judge Rakoff is scheduled for July 31st.