When Sarah Palin filed suit against the New York Times for libeling her in an editorial that linked her to the Gabby Giffords shooting, opinion was somewhat mixed as to her chances of winning. The burden of proof that a public figure such as Palin has to achieve to demonstrate both malice and a reckless disregard for the truth is very difficult where a defamation action is concerned. However, it looks like that the Times has done itself no favors during the first court hearing.

What did the New York Times claim?

According to Hot Air and a number of other media organizations, David Schultz, an attorney for the New York Times, asked Federal Judge Jed Rakoff to dismiss Palin’s suit because the editorial board of the Times made an “Honest Mistake.” The Times in its editorial stated that a map printed by Palin’s PAC placed crosshairs over various congressional districts, including that of Gabby Giffords.

The Times implied that this inspired Jared Loughner to shoot a lot of people at a congressional event held by the representative. Schultz claimed that dragging up the old and long discredited story was a blunder and not an intentional attempt to smear Palin.

But there is only one problem with the blunder theory

The problem with the idea that the scurrilous article was an “honest mistake” is that the very same day of the editorial, the New York Times ran an article that basically refuted the Palin connection calumny. Since the news article had to be approved for publication by a Times editor, the Times knew perfectly well that what it was asserting in the editorial was a lie. The only other explanation is that the people running the Gray Lady are so incompetent that they need to be fired immediately lest they make more “honest mistakes” of this nature.

Proving malice

To a layperson and a number of legal analysts, Palin has already demonstrated that the New York Times employed a reckless disregard for the truth. Malice is another matter, though it can be said that the former governor and vice presidential candidate has been one of the most abused women in public life in recent memory.

Proving malice may be easier than previously thought.

If the Palin suit appeared to be going to trial, look for the Times to try to settle. The terms of the settlement will probably depend on how much the former Alaskan governor wants to punish the New York Times. An apology printed above the fold on the front page would seem to be the minimum of what should be demanded. Money, even an undisclosed amount, should also change hands to put a little sting in the humiliation the Times has brought down on itself.