As the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell noted Thursday morning, a Wednesday evening New York Times editorial which made it into Thursday's print edition outrageously perpetuated "a long-debunked leftist conspiracy theory about Gov. Sarah Palin inciting the (2011 Gabby) Giffords shooting," even though the paper's "own news reporters declared just yesterday that there was no evidence linking Palin to."
The Times issued corrections which would have led its readers to believe that all mention of the 2011 Palin-targeting myth had been excised. That's not what happened.
Here is the original editorial as it appeared in print on Thursday, with the offensive Palin-related paragraph boxed in red:
Readers here will surely take issue with a number of other assertions in the editorial, especially its fantasy about innocent bystanders being in more danger from good guys with guns than the bad guys who would be their targets.
The Times eventually ended up making two separate corrections, presented in a single paragraph:
An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.
Bozell's statement noted the existence of the first correction in an update, but not the second. That's because the second correction came later, as The Daily Caller and several other center-right sites have noted, when it soon became obvious that the first correction alone wouldn't do the job (bold is mine):
After harsh criticism, the NYT added in the sentence: “But no connection to that crime was ever established.” ... The very next paragraph, in apparent contradiction of the update, still claimed there was a direct “sign of incitement” in the Giffords attack. The NYT then made another edit, removing that sentence and finally adding in an editor’s note.
Both corrections were noted in the Times's Friday print edition at the very bottom of the paper's Opinion/editorial page in fine print. But, as seen here, they were not included in the paper's list of corrections on Page A25.
Despite the corrections' passive-voice semi-acknowledgment that "no link was established," the Times insisted on keeping the myth's existence in its revised editorial. The relevant paragraph now reads as follows:
The paper's passive voice in this paragraph will surely leave many readers believing that there may still have been a connection, even though it wasn't "ever established."
That's too much even for the far-left "fact checkers" at Politifact. After the appearance of the original editorial, rated it "False," noting that there was and is "No evidence Sarah Palin’s PAC incited shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords." Though it did not update its evaluation after the Times issued its corrections, the fact that there is still "no evidence" six years after Loughner's 2011 attack, and its "False" rating would still stand.
Several commentators have noted that Jared Loughner's attack had nothing to do with any consistent brand of "vicious American politics." One of them is James Freeman at the Wall Street Journal:
... despite the New York Times’ fondest desires, it turned out Loughner wasn’t a conservative at all but a babbler of nonsense who adopted a mish-mash of views from both the left and the right and whose tastes in literature ran the gamut from Ayn Rand to Karl Marx.
The Politifact item just noted also weighed in with specifics:
According to the Washington Post, there is no evidence Loughner was aware of Palin's maps. And according to an interview with one of Loughner's high school friends, the gunman did not watch the news. His rampage was akin to "shooting at the world," said Loughner’s friend Zach Osler.
The Washington Post gave the Times's editorial "Four Pinocchios," its worst truthfulness rating.
The paper's editorialists wanted to express their opinion that James Hodgkinson's Wednesday morning attack was "probably" "evidence of how vicious American politics has become," and that's certainly their perogative. But there is no justification for the Times having kept any language whatsoever relating to the Palin-Giffords myth in its revised editorial.
It's also quite disappointing, though sadly not surprising, that the paper chose to express its regret in a tweet while failing to address any apology to its readers in Friday's print edition.
The entire enterprise at the Times comes off as a passive-aggressive, "what's the least we can do to keep from getting sued" exercise, as several conservative pundits on Twitter have noted (HT Twitchy; some spelling and punctuation corrected):
- David French — "The NYT's has made a substantial correction, but it's not good enough. Loughner's crime had NOTHING to do with conventional politics."
- Charles W. Cooke — "... that doesn’t make the editorial okay. It means they’re slightly less likely to be sued."
- Guy Benson — "The mere mention of Palin's map is a baseless, bizarre, irrelevant non-sequitur."
- David Harsanyi — "No 'such link was established,' NYT, because no such link exists. How can the editorial even stand if that is the case?"
- Mary Katharine Ham — "This remains dishonest and nonsensical with the change."
As is so often the case, the strongest and most salient Twitter criticism came from David Burge, aka Iowahawk, who sarcastically described the "logic" at the Times as follows: "I guess our blood libel was wrong, but we'll just keep it in here anyway just in case."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.