In court, the editor now claims that, despite his actual words, he didn’t intend to publish a Palin smear.
Does a Palin smear depend on actual words, or is it about the intentions of a writer despite what words he uses? Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times for publishing fake news about her.
The newspaper had several possible lines of defense. Instead, they chose to claim that it was all a big misunderstanding! They are arguing that the editor’s current testimony about what he meant trumps the words he wrote.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Palin, Fake News and the Times.”
Is the New York Times botching its legal defense against Sarah Palin’s libel claim? In June the Times published an editorial containing fake news about the former Alaska governor and GOP vice-presidential candidate. Now the newspaper is seeking to have her lawsuit dismissed. But Mrs. Palin’s legal team says that Times lawyers are demanding a legal standard that would effectively make it impossible for any public official to win a libel case.[…]
The editor, James Bennet, said he had wanted to draw a link between charged political rhetoric and an atmosphere of political incitement after a gunman opened fired in June on a baseball field where Republican congressmen were practicing, injuring several people including Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. But Mr. Bennet said he was not trying to make a direct connection between a map of targeted electoral districts that Ms. Palin’s political action committee had circulated and the 2011 shooting in Arizona by Jared Loughner that severely injured Representative Gabby Giffords.
“I did not intend and was not thinking of it as a causal link to the crime,” Mr. Bennet said. During cross-examination, he said he did not know if Mr. Loughner had seen the map and “did not know if the map incited him to his conduct.”
This is going well beyond claims that factual errors happen in the rush to publish a daily newspaper or that pages clearly marked “Opinion” have wide latitude to interpret public events. Mr. Bennet is not saying that he was simply misinformed about the facts of the case. He’s arguing that he didn’t intend to write what his editorial clearly stated.
In a filing this week, lawyers for Mrs. Palin respond:
Particularly at the dismissal stage, The Times’ contention that Mr. Bennet made an honest mistake—that when he used the words “incitement” and “clear [and] direct link” he did not really mean what he said—is inconsequential.
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