Sarah Palin vs. NY Times Libel Trial Update Day 4: Former Editor Cross-Examined On Use Of Term “Incitement”
“James Bennet, the former editor, testified in the trial’s fourth day that he relied upon research from colleagues before adding language, under deadline pressure, that suggested Palin’s political action committee might have incited the 2011 Arizona shooting”
Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times for libel and the case resumed Monday. New details are now being made available.
You can read more about the background of the case here.
Tuesday, a former editor of the NY Times took the stand.
Jonathan Stempel and Jody Godoy report at Reuters:
Former New York Times editor put on defensive at Sarah Palin defamation trial
A former New York Times editorial page editor was put on the defensive on Tuesday in Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against the newspaper over a 2017 editorial that incorrectly linked the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor to an earlier mass shooting in Arizona.
James Bennet, the former editor, testified in the trial’s fourth day that he relied upon research from colleagues before adding language, under deadline pressure, that suggested Palin’s political action committee might have incited the 2011 Arizona shooting…
“I was really concerned … that something like this didn’t seem like such a big deal any more,” Bennet told Palin’s lawyer Shane Vogt. “It seemed like a huge deal that several Republican congressmen had been shot, and I did want to get our readers’ attention to that.”
This passage seems particularly important:
The editorial originally drafted by board member Elizabeth Williamson referenced Palin’s political action committee having circulated a map before the Giffords shooting that put the congresswoman and 19 other Democrats under cross hairs.
Bennet added language that “the link to political incitement was clear” and that there was no sign of incitement in the Scalise shooting as direct as in the Giffords shooting.
I take particular issue with that last part. There was no incitement in the Scalise shooting? The entire Democratic party and liberal media establishment was accusing Trump of being an agent for Russia and the Republican party of being his enablers.
The shooter was a ‘superfan’ of Rachel Maddow, meaning that his head was filled with this garbage on a near nightly basis. Anyway, back to the trial.
Josh Gerstein of Politico has more:
“Would it be fair to say that you were determined to use the word incitement in the ‘America’s Lethal Politics’ editorial?” Vogt asked.
“No,” Bennet said calmly.
Judge Jed Rakoff has twice read jurors a dictionary definition of incitement, but Bennet said his experience covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a Jerusalem correspondent for the Times left him with a sense of the term as covering any sort of incendiary rhetoric or media.
“It’s used on both sides in that conflict to basically describe all sorts of communications that teach people to treat each other as enemies and, in some cases as less than human,” Bennet said.
However, the former Times editor also conceded he would not be surprised if some Times readers subscribed to the dictionary definition.
On the same night the editorial was published, Times columnist Ross Douthat emailed Bennet to flag that no link had ever been found between a map from Palin’s political action committee and the 2011 shooting carried out by Jared Loughner, a mentally ill Arizona man who pleaded guilty to the rampage. Bennet said Douthat’s message came as a surprise because the editorial was never intended to claim such a link.
“That is not the message we intended to send,” Bennet said. “I recognized that people were interpreting it that way.”
Palin attorney Shane Vogt starts out by asking Bennet if he'd be surprised if people understood "incitement" to mean what it says in the dictionary. Bennet says he wouldn't be surprised.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 8, 2022
Vogt now veering into another key part of the case: Showing that Bennet is extremely well educated — St. Albans, Yale University — and thus knows what he's doing and saying.
"Did you get good grades?" asks Vogt of his time at St. Albans.
"I did." responds Bennet.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 8, 2022
See the witness list below:
lmao, Ross Douthat has to testify in Sarah Palin's defamation trial pic.twitter.com/eTZ9f8b6S9
— Norm Charlatan (@normcharlatan) February 7, 2022
This is also an interesting tidbit:
NYT lawyer at the Palin trial just told the judge he observed a member of the public stop the governor at the elevator & tell her he hopes she wins & that he hates the NYT. He said jury members saw this. Lawyer says he might ask judge to warn jury about ignoring such comments.
— David Mack (@davidmackau) February 7, 2022
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