Two weeks ago, in the wake of the Virginia shooting that left Rep. Steve Scalise fighting for his life, the New York Times published a reckless essay called “America’s Lethal Politics”. The brunt of the editorial was to place blame on both conservatives and liberals who have used violent imagery and rhetoric to inspire their followers to get involved in politics. The cost, they argued, was that this kind of talk would inevitably lead to incidents like the one in Alexandria, where a liberal nutjob named James Hodgkinson brought a gun to a congressional baseball practice session and opened fire.
The editorial was ghastly for more than one reason; it was hard to imagine that the Times would have blamed “both sides” had an angry conservative shot up a Democrat baseball practice. No, then the full force of their rage would have been pointed towards conservative media: Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, and, of course, the President of the United States. But seeing as how it was a Bernie Sanders supporter who caused the carnage, they had to at least vaguely acknowledge that…maybe…to the tiniest degree…liberal pundits had taken things a tad too far as well. But they still made sure to hold the other side mostly responsible for the deterioration in American politics.
To bolster this absurd claim, they relied on a myth that had been debunked years earlier.
“In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear,” they wrote. “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 cross hairs.”
Later in the piece, they wrote, “Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.”
This is what it means to publish fake news.
Problem #1 – The PAC map in question did not show Gabby Giffords in the crosshairs, only her district.
Problem #2 – There was never any evidence that Loughner saw the map, much less that it had any impact on his state of mind.
Problem #3 – Loughner, by all accounts, had a problem with Giffords stemming from an earlier encounter where she brushed him off when he asked her some nonsensical jibberish floating around in his diseased mind.
In other words, there is no connection whatsoever between Sarah Palin and the Giffords shooting, despite what a handful of fake news stories proposed at the time. And that’s why Palin filed a lawsuit against the Times in the aftermath of the editorial.
As a defense, the New York Times is now claiming that the defamation claim should be thrown out because it was really no big deal.
“There was an honest mistake in posting the editorial,” said a lawyer for the Times in federal court this week.
Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. The Times is a newspaper, not a guy spouting off at the local barber shop. It’s up to them to get their facts straight before they vomit out these editorials, especially if said editorials are making a claim as damning as the one they made about Sarah Palin. This was no “honest mistake,” this was a desperate attempt to draw attention away from the liberal media’s culpability in a tragedy.