This is the first of a two-part series by Liberty Nation regarding the controversy developing between former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and The New York Times.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sent a message to the New York Times Tuesday that, when it comes to dishonest editorial hit-pieces, the gloves are off. Palin, who has been the target of some of the most vile verbal and written attacks any politician has ever faced, filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper over the false accusations it made in a recent editorial.
For many readers, The New York Times long ago shed any pretense of balanced, unbiased reporting. Whilst often far less inflammatory than more extreme left-wing publications, many articles in The Times can be considered no less dishonest. As well, its editorials usually reflect the political agenda it seeks to promote. In the wake of the attempted murder of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, the paper sunk to a new low in a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the shooter’s radical leftwing views. To do so, the editorial board reached back to regurgitate a debunked allegation made against Palin in 2011.
Paranoid schizophrenic Jared Loughner killed six people in a 2011 shooting. He wounded thirteen others, including his intended target, Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords. Almost before the gunfire was over, left-wingers – in typical fashion – pointed the finger of blame at a Republican; Sarah Palin, in this case. Palin’s political action committee had, not long before the attack, published a map highlighting certain key congressional districts across the country that were to be the focus of Tea Party election campaigns. Giffords’ district was one of those. On the map, each of these districts was overlaid with a graphic similar to the crosshairs of a rifle scope. The left seized on this as evidence that Loughner had been inspired, by the map, to gun down Rep. Giffords. Loughner, who held a complicated and erratic range of political views, already harbored a grudge against Giffords. Although portrayed by some as a right-wing extremist, the 22-year-old often expressed anti-government sentiments, was enraged by former president George W. Bush and had even been described as a liberal by some who knew him.
On the same day – June 14 – that Rep. Steve Scalise was shot by a radical left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter, The Times published their editorial, linking Sarah Palin to the Giffords shooting. Following a swift backlash, the piece was revised to include a halfhearted, one-line acknowledgement that there was no link between the shooting and Palin’s now-famous map. Additionally, on June 16, The Times added a correction at the foot of the editorial.
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.
The wave of criticism directed at The Times, over its discredited allegation, didn’t just come from the right; even the decidedly left-leaning Washington Post and almost equally partisan PolitiFact were unable to give The Grey Lady a pass. The former awarded the editorial four ‘Pinocchio’s’ and the latter supported that assessment:
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.
It could be argued that The Times corrected the editorial more out of a desire to avoid legal action and to silence the backlash, rather than to set the record straight. Regardless, Palin is taking The Times to court.
In the defamation complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Palin’s lawyers submit that The Times “violated the law and its own policies” by publishing the editorial. According to a report in the Washington Post, the complaint “lists several Times articles indicating that Loughner’s attack had no basis in politics…”
In response to the filing, a spokesperson for The Times stated ““We have not reviewed the claim yet but will defend against any claim vigorously.”
At some point, a price should be paid by those who cross the line between political rhetoric and intentional character assassination. Left-wing celebrities, journalists and political pundits cross this line constantly, without being held to account. Legal technicalities often deter their victims from filing libel, slander or defamation lawsuits. Even when called out for their dishonesty, these leftists will often issue faux apologies that do nothing to mitigate the damage already done. It can only be hoped that this case will serve to raise awareness of this pattern of dishonesty and make others think more carefully before publicly drawing unfounded conclusions or making baseless allegations.
Tomorrow in part two of our series, LN author Graham Noble takes a closer look at the complaint filed by Palin’s legal team; how it measures up to the legal standards for defamation and what options The Times has for its defense.