Unethical Quote Of The Week: Former New York Times Editor James Bennet

Under oath!

” It’s extremely important for the editorial board to have a reputation to call balls and strikes without partisanship.

Former NYT editor James Bennet, who was responsible for the editorial now the object of a defamation lawsuit by Sarah Palin.

Wow. If that’s “extremely important,” the Times sure is doing a lousy job achieving its alleged objective. It was just this week when the Editorial slot in the paper was taken up by a piece headlined (in the print edition), “Can the Republican Party Be Saved?” (online headline: “When the Storming of the Capitol Becomes ‘Legitimate Political Discourse.“) The second headline is deceit: as I pointed out in the previous post, the recent GOP resolution condemning the two Republican House members who voted for an illegal Democratic Party impeachment and who are fully participating in a rigged partisan investigation designed to find a way to lock up Donald Trump and as many of his supporters as possible, never asserts that the Jan. 6 riot was “legitimate political discourse.” Never mind: that’s the latest false narrative fad, like the “Trump called white supremacists ‘fine people'” smear that one can still hear one’s Facebook friends cite to this day. Of course the Times is running with it.

It was the print headline that really struck me, though. This week, polls came out showing that Joe Biden’s support had slipped into the thirties with no end to the free-fall in sight, and that the Republicans were surging further ahead in the Congressional mid-terms survey. And the non-partisan Times’ question is whether Republicans can be saved! Only a thoroughly biased group of editors wouldn’t perceive how bad that kind of tunnel vision makes the paper look. But bias makes you stupid. In its most extreme cases, victims can’t even see how biased they are.

I did a search of all the Ethics Alarms posts where outrageous Times partisan bias was the topic, and it took so long I couldn’t get through them all. My coverage is far from exhaustive either. I did reach this 2016 campaign classic, memorializing that smoking gun episode when the Times editors—who call balls and strikes without partisanship (Hey! I typed that without breaking into helpless giggles!)—allowed the paper’s media columnist to call for the Times to “aggressively” oppose Donald Trump.

It’s kind of fun to read now, as Jim Rutenberg cites the risible authority of Joe Scarborough, Chris Matthews, Brian Stelter, and Ezra Klein while describing the late Rush Limbaugh’s spot-on observation that “The media is trying to take Donald Trump out” as just another example of “longstanding accusations of liberal bias.” As we all know, the media then tried to take Trump out and is still trying, right up to this moment.

How could the same editors who deemed such a clear call for partisan bias in the Times political reporting worthy of publication be capable of calling metaphorical balls and strikes “without partisanship”?

That’s easy: they can’t, they hadn’t, they didn’t, and they don’t.

Bennet was testifying yesterday in the course of defending the Times, and himself, by brushing off the editors’ 2017 statement that it was “clear” that Sarah Palin, a much derided (by the Times, among others) conservative politician, incited the assassination attempt on the life of a Democratic Congresswoman Rep. Gabriel Giffords.  Their evidence?  A map circulated by Palin’s political action committee showed 20 congressional districts that Republicans were hoping to win, including the one held by Giffords, labeled by stylized cross hairs. As Ethics Alarms recalled last month, this claim had been decisively disproven six years earlier. Just a mistake, Bennet said, under oath. Could happen to anybody. No malice there! The Times, meanwhile, never made any similar accusations when a “Bernie Bro” shot at the Republican Congressional softball team, seriously wounding Rep. Scalise.

Before his unethical quote above, Bennet denied that he intended to “harm” Palin (by blaming her for one murder and Giffors’ shooting). Since the key issue in the defamation suit is malice, of course he said “no.” Why would accusing a politician of causing one death and the near-fatal wounding of Giffords hurt her? Later on in his testimony, Bennet was asked why he never apologized to Palin for the Times’ “mistake.”

He said he didn’t think Palin would see his apology was done “in good faith”: “It would look like an effort to get out of a lawsuit,” Bennet said.

Gee, why would she think that?




6 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Former New York Times Editor James Bennet

  1. “…calling balls and strikes without partisanship”? Baseball? That implies real ‘rules’..
    The NYT and their ilk aren’t doing anything more that playing their own version of Calvin-ball.

  2. Nothing to see here. Move along.
    ,blockquote>After the jury left for the day, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled he would not allow jurors to consider imposing punitive damages against the Times, a decision that could substantially limit the size of any monetary award to Ms. Palin if she wins.

    No reasonable juror, the judge said, could conclude the editorial was motivated solely by animus and a desire to injure Ms. Palin, as required by law.

    Judge Rakoff said the evidence to support ill will toward Ms. Palin was “quite modest, indeed.”


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