I was stunned when the New York Times, after a Bernie Sanders supporter engineered a sniper attack on a group of Republican Congressmen (Steve Scalise is still hospitalized) published an editorial including the “everybody does it” argument that Republican rheteric had activated madmen too, reminding readers that there had been a “clear” and “direct” causal connection between Palin’s PAC’s “targeting” of Gabrielle Giffords’ district and Jared Loughner’s murder of six people in Tucson. How could they be dredging up this old smear again, after it had been so thoroughly debunked? It seemed like a desperate, vicious deflection.
The theory had caused an extended and heated debate at the time of the Tucson attack, with left-biased media pundits, including the Times’ Paul Krugman and others, attempting to silence conservatives by arguing that their harsh “eliminationist rhetoric” had put Gifford in the crosshairs, literally. The Left’s prime scapegoats for the shootings were the most vocal conservative critics of President Obama and the Democrats at the time, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.The smear was transparent and dishonest; eventually even President Obama rejected it in the best speech of his tenure as President. It was also quickly disproven by the facts. Loughner, if anything, was a progressive lunatic. His written rants suggested no influence by the Right at all, and certainly no indication that Palin’s use of a crosshairs graphic to indicate Democrats “targeted” for defeat at the ballot box had even been seen by the killer, much less set him on his murderous path.
The revived lie was taken down online within a day, though not before the Times’s rival for the title of “Parper Most Willing To Devastate Its Reputation To Destroy Donald Trump” issued a merciless ‘factcheck.” The falsehod was also put into print. Several lawyers suggested that Palin had grounds for a defamation lawsuit, even though, as a public figure, prevailing in a lawsuit would require her to prove “actual malice.” Palin did sue. Sure enough, The Times is denying malice by arguing that it made an “honest mistake.” But how could it be an honest mistake, when the Times itself had published reporting that finally proved Loughner was no devotee of Palin or Limbaugh.
For the Times editors to claim they made an honest mistake, they must insist that they were unaware of what had been prominently published in their own newspaper, under their own oversight. Sure, that’s certainly the kind of professionalism, competence and care one expects from the flagship of American journalism. Continue reading