About that New York Times Editorial

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Here’s the corrected version of the two offending paragraphs:

Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, 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. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.

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. Liberals should of course be held to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

It seems to me that if you were coming to this text fresh, with no awareness of the previous version of the editorial, the controversy, or the correction, you’d come away thinking that Palin may have had something to do with Loughner’s shootings but the connection had not been rigorously proven. You’d have the impression, that is, that Palin probably has blood on her hands but the Times is so fair-minded that it won’t come out and say so until every t is crossed.

The truth, of course, is that we have no reason to think that Palin’s PAC inspired Loughner at all. If the editorial had to mention Palin and Giffords at all, it would have been better to replace “But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established” with “But it turned out that there was no connection between the map and shootings.” Or, even better, “But there turned out to be no connection between the map and the shootings, no matter how eager many liberals were to believe one existed and how impervious they have been to the debunkings of their vicious smears.”

If this version of the editorial had been the first one, conservatives (and genuinely fair-minded liberals) would have been justified in denouncing its repulsive and baseless insinuation. The fact that the Times initially ran with an even worse slander should not make us judge its new version any less harshly.

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