In Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times the former vice presidential candidate and conservative firebrand has hired two lawyers who know something about cases in which high-profile plaintiffs go up against media businesses.
Her lawyers are Kenneth Turkel and Shane Vogt of the Tampa, Florida-based Bajo Cuva Cohen & Turkel, who were recently part of the legal team representing pro wrestling star Hulk Hogan—whose real name is Terry Bollea—in a famous invasion of privacy suit against Gawker.
Palin alleges in her suit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, that she was defamed in a June 14 editorial called “America’s Lethal Politics,” which she said links her to the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that resulted in six deaths and a gunshot wound to the head of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, who survived the incident.
Turkel and Vogt were among the lawyers representing Hogan in a lawsuit stemming from Gawker’s publication on its website of a surreptitiously recorded video of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife.
In a result that sent chills down the spines of media executives and their companies’ in-house counsels, a Florida state court awarded Hogan a $140 million verdict.
Hogan, whose legal team was led by famed Beverly Hills lawyer Charles Harder, ended up settling with Gawker for $31 million. Gawker is now defunct, and its parent company, Gawker Media, was sold to Univision in the wake of its declaration of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
With regard to Palin’s case, the Times editorial at the heart of the suit—which the Times has corrected twice—was released the day that gunman James Hodgkinson opened fire on a practice session in advance of a charity baseball game. Participating in the baseball practice session in Virginia were Republican members of Congress and former and current congressional aides.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was seriously wounded in the attack.
The original version of the Times editorial linked the attack to Giffords’ shooting and to a map distributed by Palin’s political action committee prior to the Arizona shooting showing congressional districts under stylized crosshairs.
The Times corrected the piece to state that there was no connection between the two shooting attacks, then later corrected the piece to state that the map distributed before the Arizona shooting portrayed congressional districts under crosshairs, not Democratic lawmakers themselves.
In her suit, Palin said the Times should have apologized and retracted the piece.
“The Times deliberately ran the Palin article knowing that the statements it made about Mrs. Palin were false and defamatory, or made a conscious decision to publish the Palin article with reckless disregard for the truth of those statements,” Palin’s complaint states.
Palin formerly served as governor of Alaska and still resides there. The Southern District has jurisdiction over the Times’ headquarters on the west side of Manhattan.
Palin seeks compensatory, special and punitive damages in excess of $75,000. Turkel did not respond to requests for an interview.
In a statement forwarded to the Law Journal, a spokesperson for the Times said it is “agonizing to get something wrong,” but said the errors were corrected.
“We’re confident that the First Amendment protects publishers in these circumstances, and we intend to defend the action vigorously,” the statement reads.
Palin’s legal team also includes S. Preston Ricardo of the New York-based Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe.
Andrew Denney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @messagetime