The New York Times issued a correction and a half-hearted apology on Thursday after falsely accusing Sarah Palin of inciting Jared Loughner to shoot Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords in January 2011, a claim that was first debunked more than six years ago.
After Loughner — a paranoid schizophrenic who had no conservative political leanings — shot Giffords in the head in 2011, some in the left-media tried to tie the shooting to a map Palin had made that placed crosshairs on districts Republicans were aiming to retake in 2012, including Giffords’ district.
There was no evidence then or now that Loughner ever saw Palin’s map. What’s more, Loughner was obsessed with Giffords years before Palin ever sought to organize her electoral defeat. (RELATED: NYT Uses GOP Shooting To Falsely Attack Sarah Palin With Debunked Conspiracy Theory)
Just three days after the shooting, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote: “the charge that Palin’s map had anything to do with the shooting is bogus.”
But the NYT has been feeding its readers an entirely different narrative for years.
In January 2013, the NYT ran a story by Peter Baker — currently the paper’s chief White House correspondent — that lent credibility to the falsehood that Palin incited Loughner’s actions..
“The use of gun symbolism has at times provoked controversy. After Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head by a gunman in 2011, 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,” Baker wrote.
Baker did not inform his readers that the accusations he was repeating were, in WaPo’s words, “bogus.” His story was headlined, “In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded.”
This past December, New York Times Magazine suggested that Palin contributed to Loughner’s “radicalization.”
“In 2010, Sarah Palin posted a map to her Facebook page that laid the cross hairs of a gun sight over districts that threatened the Republican agenda, including Gabrielle Giffords’s,” wrote Jack Hitt in a story titled, “We Don’t Talk About ‘Radicalization’ When an Attacker Isn’t Muslim. We Should.”
“Months later, when a gunman did fire a bullet point-blank through Giffords’s head, some conservative activists were outraged that anyone drew a connection between Palin’s playful clip art and an actual head shot,” Hitt wrote.
Hitt did not inform his readers that there was no evidence whatsoever linking Palin’s map to Loughner’s actions.
The NYT again pushed that false narrative on Thursday in response to 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson’s attempted assassination of dozens of GOP congressmen as they practiced for the annual congressional baseball game. Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter who was fiercely anti-Trump, but the NYT used the tragedy as an excuse to again smear Palin without any evidence.
“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,” the editorial stated.
“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,” the editors added.
Palin has said she is exploring her legal options after the false charge against her.
The NYT chalked Thursday’s falsehood up to an error. But the paper’s history shows — at best — that the NYT has been erroneously pushing the same falsehood for years.