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Sarah Palin's positive COVID test clouds start of NY Times defamation trial

by Reuters
Monday, 24 January 2022 15:17 GMT

(Adds details from hearing, background about lawsuit, byline)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, has tested positive for the coronavirus, as she had been set to begin a defamation trial against The New York Times on Monday.

Palin's positive test was announced by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, who is presiding over the case.

"She is of course unvaccinated," the judge said, referring to Palin.

Palin is to be retested on Monday morning, to determine whether jury selection can begin later that day or the trial should be adjourned, likely until Feb. 3.

Rakoff said Palin's positive test came from an at-home test whose reliability was lower than tests administered at the courthouse and required for the trial.

Palin, 57, has accused the Times and its former editorial page editor James Bennet of damaging her reputation in a June 14, 2017, editorial linking her to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords.

The editorial, headlined "America's Lethal Politics," was published after a shooting at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia where U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, a top Republican from Louisiana, was wounded.

It said "the link to political incitement was clear" between the 2011 shooting and a map circulated by Palin's political action committee putting 20 Democrats including Giffords under "stylized cross hairs."

The Times quickly corrected the editorial, saying it wrongly stated that political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting were linked, and Bennet has said he did not intend to blame Palin.

But Palin said the disputed material fit Bennet's "preconceived narrative," and that he was experienced enough to know what his words meant.

A trial is expected to last five days. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

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