Sarah Palin tests positive for Covid, delaying start of 'New York Times' defamation trial

Former Alaska governor sued over an editorial linking her to Arizona mass shooting that killed six people and wounded US Representative Gabby Giffords

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Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican US vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing a judge on Monday to delay her defamation trial against The New York Times.

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

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

Ms 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 February 3.

Mr Rakoff said Ms 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.

Ms Palin 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 US Representative Gabby Giffords.

The editorial, headlined "America's Lethal Politics", was published after a shooting at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, where US 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 Ms Palin's political action committee putting 20 Democrats including Ms Giffords under "stylised cross hairs".

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

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

A trial is expected to last five days.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 6:24 PM