An ironic defense for a newspaper that had accused Palin’s rhetoric of causing the murder of a Republican judge, but the CJR piece on how the New York Times decided to run a bizarre false accusation years after it had been discredited is really revealing.
1. The New York Times’ first reaction to a Bernie Sanders supporter trying to murder Republican House members was to deflect by smearing Palin and Republicans while showing zero empathy or outrage at the actual attack.
A few hours after the bullets flew, according to her deposition, she sent an email to colleagues with the subject line, “Are we writing on the congressional shooting?” An editor responded, “Can’t see it yet, but keep looking. A nutcase who hates Republicans???”
For the next few hours, Williamson and other edit-page staff researched motives for the shooting. Mid-afternoon, Bennet contributed to an email string: “Did we ever write anything connecting…the Giffords shooting to some kind of incitement?”
2.. The New York Times, the leading iconic media paper, has no fact checking. The same media that screams that conservatives need to be fact checked all the time has the same level of fact checking as any random guy saying stuff on Twitter.
A colleague offered up a 2011 column in which Frank Rich mentioned Palin’s map but noted that “we have no idea” if Loughner had seen it before the shooting, adding, “nor does it matter.”
Nor does it matter.
Bennet was up early the next day, with a 5:08am email to colleagues: “Hey guys—We’re taking a lot of criticism for saying that the attack on Giffords was in any way connected to incitement.… I don’t know what the truth is here, but we may have relied too heavily on our early editorials and other early coverage of that attack.
What kind of paper relies on a comment in a Frank Rich editorial for fact checking? This is the blind leading the blind.
Nobody seems to have bothered researching even the basic facts before running their mouths off.
3. Bennett’s mistake was going too far from any defensible argument, but the original editorial made the same slimy accusation, it just did so in a diffuse manner with lots of whataboutism.
“Just as in 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a nine-year-old girl, Mr. Hodgkinson’s rage was nurtured in a vile political climate. Then, it was the pro-gun right being criticized: in the weeks before the shooting Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.”
Bennett made this much worse by editing it to accuse Palin and Republicans of incitement while claiming to hold the moral high ground.
“In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a nine-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear.”
Bennett went too far beyond a defensible argument, but that’s all.
4. Bennett’s argument is that no one should take what they read in the New York Times seriously as a matter of fact.
But the judge wanted clarity: “I am asking a question about grammar and sentence structure, which presumably you have some expertise in.” He read the first “incitement” passage back to Bennet and asked, “Doesn’t that mean as a matter of ordinary English grammar and usage that that sentence is saying that the shooting in 2011 was clearly linked to political incitement?” Bennet fumbled for a while, so the judge zeroed in again: “You’re saying that this map circulated by Sarah Palin’s political action committee was a direct cause of the kind of political incitement that you think led to various acts of violence?” Bennet responded, “I would not use the word ‘cause,’ Your Honor” and later added, “It wasn’t in my head that that was tantamount to complicity in attempted murder. It’s simply rhetoric.”
Don’t pay attention to the things we say, because we just say things.
And this is coming from the same paper that keeps accusing President Trump of not caring about the truth.