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Sarah Palin vs. NY Times Libel Trial Update Day 4: Former Editor Cross-Examined On Use Of Term “Incitement”

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.”

See the witness list below:

This is also an interesting tidbit:

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Comments

Sahara would look good in a red Lambo, an 85’ yacht and a mansion in Hawaii next to Obama.

So after MONTHS of preparation with I’m assuming a team of lawyers, that’s the best that they could come up with? Essentially claiming that the word means something other than what the word means?

Even Bill Clinton was more believable.

    CommoChief in reply to Olinser. | February 9, 2022 at 11:29 am

    Yeah it’s disingenuous at best. These folks work for the NYT, one of the premier Newspapers in the world. They get paid because they have a higher than average ability to use language to express ideas. Word choices are deliberate. Even if there was an unconscious or subliminal choice of a particular word v an alternative the job of editors is not simply to prove the typeset but to review for clarity and bias; especially unconscious bias by the author.

    The NYT has vast resources to gather and investigate information. They have, supposedly, some of the nest writers and editors on staff. This is precisely the argument Brian Shelter of CNN used v Joe Rogan; legacy media has resources and talent pool unavailable to independent journalists or independent bloggers/pod casting therefore the public should trust legacy media over them.

    It’s illuminating when we are confronted with such divergent examples of the same argument by different legacy media organizations. CNN ‘trust us because we’re big’; NY Times ‘we make mistakes because we’re big’.

Is it me, or is the NYT getting pig-piled these days? Palin, Veritas, Sandmann, maybe Rittenhouse to come? My my… the perp tracker dogs are all coming home to roost.

    Richard in reply to henrybowman. | February 8, 2022 at 11:13 pm

    I guess he thinks he is Humpty Dumpty

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

      Milhouse in reply to Richard. | February 9, 2022 at 8:00 pm

      He’s right about the different usage of the word in the Israeli context. But he wasn’t writing in that context. And even in that context the Palin map would not be seen as even slightly inciting. See my longer comment below for details.

      malclave in reply to Richard. | February 10, 2022 at 4:56 pm

      Humpty Dumpty is a kids’ magazine for preschoolers, IIRC. The NYT obviously aspires to reach that sophisticated an audience.

Ha, this is funny. Sure tell the jury that. It will definitely set it up for a mistrial.

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.

    mailman in reply to MarkSmith. | February 9, 2022 at 4:37 am

    How would his set up a mistrial? These people must want to BELIEVE jurists live under rocks, have absolutely no access to the outside world, and aren’t human.

    Everything they see every day prejudices them either in favour of or against one side or the other. But oh no’s…jurist might have seen someone supportive of one side! Quick, burn the fucking court house down!

The NYT’s doesn’t need a defense.They have it fixed.

PP – got some evidence?

I used to make fun of people who believed what they read in Pravda. Now, I make fun of people who believe the NYT.

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.

This is actually true. You can’t follow the news on that conflict without frequently coming across this usage. Israeli law defines “incitement” (הסתה) much more broadly than US law does, and you can get arrested for speech that here would be completely protected by the first amendment (of which Israel, like most so-called “free” countries, has no equivalent).

For instance Israel regularly accuses the PA of “incitement” for publicly praising terrorists and treating them as heroes, for claiming that the Jews poison wells and drink Moslem children’s blood, etc. It also prosecutes Jews for pointing out the obvious truth that if there were no Arabs in Israel there’d be no terrorism. None of these things fit the definition that the US courts have laid out.

The thing is, though, that even by the broadest possible definition of “incitement” it’s impossible to imagine applying it to Palin’s ad. There was nothing even remotely inflammatory or violent about it. It didn’t even use martial imagery or language, as campaign ads often do (such as that word right there, “campaign”). All it said was, here’s a list of districts that Republicans should try to win in the next election. With a map showing those districts with a register mark that is used by standard mapping software for that purpose. Even had it said “we are targeting these districts” there would have been nothing wrong with that — everyone on all sides of politics routinely uses language like that — but it didn’t.

Also, as you point out, the rhetoric Democrats were using against Republicans in the leadup to the baseball team shooting was incendiary, and might well have been defined as “incitement” under Israeli law.

The only sense in which Bennett could say that Palin’s map was more “inciting” than that rhetoric, is that the map specified a list of districts, and therefore by implication had those districts’ representatives as its “targets”, while the anti-Republican rhetoric before the baseball shooting was aimed generically at all Republicans and didn’t specify any particular ones by name, district, or other means. And that’s a stupid distinction to make.

Imagine that.
Readers of the NYT using dictionary, not wokeism, definitions for common words.

Yup, that’s one smart cookie there … Went to all the top schools.

    Milhouse in reply to RNR. | February 10, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Not a wokeist definition, but one that applies only in a specific context. His excuse is that he used to write in that context, so his vocabulary was affected. OK, that makes some sense, but it doesn’t work as an excuse for the reasons I explained in my long comment above.