The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

NY Times Editor Claims Incompetence Led Him to Libel Sarah Palin

Posted on | August 17, 2017 | 2 Comments

Testifying at a hearing in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, James Bennet, suggested that it was an accident — rhetorical clumsiness — which led him to falsely blame Palin for “political incitement” in a 2011 mass murder:

“What I wasn’t trying to say was that there was a direct causal link between this map and the shooting,” Bennet said. “What I was concerned about was the overall climate of political incitement.”
He continued: “I didn’t mean to suggest that Loughner wasn’t responsible. … I did not think that Jared Loughner was acting because of this map.”
Bennet testified that he had not, in advance of publication, read specific pieces of reporting in the Times about a potential connection between the PAC ad and the shooting, and said he did not know at the time of publication whether Loughner had seen the map. He also said that he had not personally seen the map. “I was not reporting the editorial, your honor, I was editing it,” Bennet said.

Hot Air’s John Sexton quotes the editorial in question and, even if Bennet’s testimony can protect the Times from an “actual malice” finding, he’s more or less confessed to “reckless disregard for truth.” An editor is responsible for the changes he makes to copy and, if his changes result in the publication of a factual error, the distinction between reporting and editing is of no consequence in a libel case. The New York Times cannot claim that it was impossible for Bennet to know Jared Loughner’s motive, because this subject was extensively covered — by me, in a January 2011 article for American Spectator:

The two-hour video is anti-Christian, anti-American and anti-capitalist, and Jared Lee Loughner became obsessed with it. Zeitgeist, a conspiracy-theory documentary released in 2007, has spawned its own cult following. According to Loughner’s friends, the accused Tucson gunman was one of the cult’s most zealous converts. And many of Loughner’s otherwise inexplicable obsessions — from his fascination with currency to his rantings against illiteracy to his paranoid fears of “mind control” — parallel ideas promoted in Zeitgeist.
The first disclosure of the movie’s influence on the mass murder suspect’s beliefs came in an interview Wednesday with ABC News. “I really think that this Zeitgeist documentary had a profound impact upon Jared Loughner’s mindset and how he views the world that he lives in,” Zach Osler, 22, told ABC’s Ashleigh Banfield. Osler’s father confirmed that influence in an interview published Sunday by the Arizona Republic. “He wanted to watch [Zeitgeist] all the time,” George Osler told the Phoenix newspaper. “It was cool at first. But then it got weird. It was all he wanted to do.”
The Zeitgeist connection may be the most crucial clue to understanding the bizarre ideas that seemed to crowd Loughner’s disordered mind in months leading up to the Jan. 8 shootings that left six dead and 12 wounded in Arizona. . . .

You can read the whole thing. Jared Loughner wasn’t motivated by anything Sarah Palin did. Nor, contrary to James Bennet’s testimony, was the gunman motivated by an “overall climate of political incitement.” He was motivated by his own psychosis and by an anti-Christian conspiracy theory video that had no connection at all to Sarah Palin.

While I spent dozens of hours researching Zeitgeist, and the weird cult the video spawned, apparently no one at the New York Times cared enough about the truth to bother discovering Loughner’s actual motives. They’re not journalists, they are Democrat Party propagandists, which was why they published the libelous claim that the “target” map in a political ad had some connection to Loughner’s crime, six years after this propaganda claim had been conclusively proven false.

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.)