Sarah Palin Testifies in 'New York Times' Defamation Lawsuit: 'Hard to Lay My Head Peacefully'

The paper says it worked quickly to address an unwitting error in an editorial about Palin after realizing what happened

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Sarah Palin outside court for her defamation trial against The New York Times. Photo: John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

Sarah Palin took the stand for multiple days this week in what she called a "David and Goliath" defamation case against The New York Times over a past editorial that falsely linked her political group to a mass shooting.

It was an honest mistake, the piece's editor argued in his testimony in the trial. But, testifying herself, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee said she had lost sleep over the accusation and said that it affected her career.

"It was devastating to read a false accusation that I had anything to do with murder," Palin said on Thursday, per the Associated Press. "I felt powerless — that I was up against Goliath. The people were David. I was David."

The case stems from a 2017 editorial that linked the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Palin's political action group, which showed specific electoral districts under cross-hairs.

The Times piece initially stated there was a link between the map and the shooting, though the paper corrected that two days later, admitting was no such link was established.

"We're sorry about this and we appreciate that our readers called us on the mistake," the paper said in a social media post.

As a public figure, Palin will have to convince the jury that the Times acted with "actual malice" (either a reckless disregard for the truth or awareness of something being false) in order to win.

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Sarah Palin outside court for her defamation trial against The New York Times. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After Palin sued for defamation, a judge initially dismissed the case. But a federal appeals court revived it — leading to the current trial.

On the stand at the trial, former Times editorial page editor James Bennet called the incident a "terrible mistake," the AP reported.

"We are human beings. We do make mistakes," Bennet said, adding: "I've regretted it pretty much every day since. That's on me. That's my failure."

According to one reporter in the courtroom, a Times lawyer argued Palin will face an uphill battle in claiming that she suffered emotional damage due to the editorial, noting that she is well known for using pro-gun rhetoric to her advantage, often with the expression "don't retreat, reload."

Under questioning on the stand, Palin reportedly said she had lost sleep over the incident, telling the jury it was "hard to lay my head peacefully on the pillow at night, yes," but saying she managed the stress "holistically."

Elsewhere in the proceedings Thursday, Palin said "things changed" after the editorial was published, calling the Times "the be all and end all" who took "a knee-jerk reaction and tried to score political points, trying to politicize horrific violence."

Still, Palin could not point to any lost income as a result of the incident, with attorneys for the Times noting that she has made paid appearances since the editorial, including a stint on Fox's The Masked Singer.

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From left: Ron Duguay and Sarah Palin arriving to her defamation trial against The New York Times. J Mayer/Shutterstock

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The case was scheduled to begin last month but was delayed due to Palin testing positive for COVID-19.

Arriving at the courthouse both Wednesday and Thursday, Palin (who divorced ex-husband Todd in 2020) was joined by former hockey star Ron Duguay and the two were seen holding hands.

Duguay was also recently photographed eating with Palin, sparking rumors of a relationship. Page Six reported, per anonymous sources, that they have been an item since late last year.

A Palin source maintained to PEOPLE, however, the two are "just friends" who "met through hockey" and Palin said much the same when approached by Page Six while dining out — all before being photographed hand-in-hand outside court.

Palin made reference to hockey in the trial on Thursday, telling opposing counsel, "As I sit here today, in the penalty box, I don't recall specifically," when asked if she had discussed the editorial with her family.

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