The New York Times Just Attempted Suicide
The New York Times has had a leftward bias for decades. But the bias has gotten much worse in recent years. It became insufferable when Trump entered the presidential race. Like so many elite institutions who pick their employees from today’s academic consensus mills, the Times saw no reason to treat Trump fairly. To respect his voters or their concerns. Or even to sort out legitimate skepticism about Donald Trump’s attitude toward Russia. You know, from elaborate and poorly-sourced crank conspiracy theories.
And now the Times has done the unforgivable. Rep. Steve Scalise still fights for his life, his family around his hospital bed. America still processes a terrorist attack against one of its three branches of government. And the Times let its bias goad it into lying. Not just lying, libeling.
The Weekly Standard Gets it Right
I can’t improve on Mark Hemingway’s synopsis in The Weekly Standard. So let me just quote him at some length. (Do go read his piece—a scrupulous autopsy of the Times’ credibility.) Hemingway writes:
Yesterday, following the news that a Republican congressmen was shot playing baseball, along with four others, in Virginia, the New York Times wrote what one conservative website is calling the “Worst Editorial In Human History.” Discussion of it has dominated social media, and even a number of notable liberal pundits are appalled.
Here’s the original masthead editorial from the Times:
Not all the details are known yet about what happened in Virginia, but a sickeningly familiar pattern is emerging in the assault: The sniper, James Hodgkinson, who was killed by Capitol Police officers, was surely deranged, and his derangement had found its fuel in politics. Mr. Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer virulently opposed to President Trump. He posted many anti-Trump messages on social media, including one in March that said “Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.
Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They’re right. Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.
After a firestorm of criticism, the Times released a brief, incomplete correction:
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.
Hemingway unpacks that:
Just to recap, Sarah Palin and Tea Partiers were blamed widely for incitement in the media in the immediate aftermath of the Giffords shooting (quite notably in the pages of the Times), even though it was apparent on the day of the shooting that Jared Lee Loughner was paranoid schizophrenic who believed that grammar was a conspiracy to keep people from thinking correct thoughts, a man with no rational political beliefs.
Further, there’s absolutely no evidence that he ever saw the map circulated by Sarah Palin’s political action committee, and the idea that using cross hairs on a map to rhetorically “target” politicians for defeat counts as an incitement to violence is absurd. Politics, like everything else, is full of martial metaphors—”campaign” is a term borrowed from war.
Despite this, two years after the Giffords shooting and long after we knew all about Loughner’s motivations (or lack thereof), a news story in the Times noted that “many criticized Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee, for using cross hairs on her Web site to identify Democrats like Ms. Giffords who she said should be defeated for re-election,” without noting there’s no link between Loughner and Palin.
Can You Get Fired for Libel Anymore?
Let’s review. The New York Times
- distorted the truth about a vicious attack on a U.S. congresswoman.
- Attributed real political views to a raving, bipartisan psychotic.
- Blamed the attack on a conservative Christian U.S. politician.
- It did so on zero evidence, out of clear partisan animus.
- All to deflect attention from a murder attempt against a dozen Republican congressmen.
That meets the standard for libel in my book. I’ve read that Gov. Palin is considering a lawsuit, and I hope that she pursues it. The key criterion in court is that the story show “reckless indifference to the truth,” and evidence of malice. The Times managed to check both boxes.
The New York Times should do more than publish some bland retraction. It should fire every member of the editorial board who approved that toxic and cruel editorial. It should then try to locate some fair-minded liberals. They will be hard to find.
Keep in mind that this is a paper which years back met charges of rampant bias by appointing an independent “Public Editor” to supervise its content. They just dismissed him as unnecessary. Oops.
This is not just an instance of left-wing bias. It is a journalistic scandal. To see how profound it is, turn things around. Imagine if:
- Some pro-lifer had shot at Supreme Court justices, shouting, “I want to kill all the pro-Roe judges!”
- Then the next day Fox News tried to deflect the political fallout by citing the violence committed by some drooling meth-addict with a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker.
- And it blamed Clinton for inciting him.
That’s how unhinged are the minds, cankered the souls, that produced that masthead editorial in the New York Times.
The New York Times should do more than publish some bland, incomplete retraction. It should fire every member of the editorial board who approved that toxic and cruel editorial. The Times should apologize to Governor Palin, and give her a weekly Op-Ed column for six months. It should then try to locate some fair-minded liberals. Writers with a deep respect for the truth and some emotional distance. Then appoint them instead to run its editorial page.
They will be hard to find. The “elite” schools that produce such writers have abandoned objectivity, fairness, free speech, and other Western values as products of the white male patriarchy. Scholars at such schools routinely denounce biology and even physics for failing to reflect their leftist agenda. (Follow New Real Peer Review for dozens of such instances.) Instead, students learn a deep-seated relativism toward facts, science, and morals. The only anchor that guides them is naked political aggression, the will to power. The opportunity to crush the morally loathsome, “deplorable” opponent. That’s the hiring pool for the New York Times and most other media.
And that’s how you end up printing libel in the nation’s “paper of record.”