The New York Times published its editorial in response to yesterday’s vicious, violent, and explicitly political attack on Congressional Republicans — an attack that wounded four and left Representative Steve Scalise in critical condition in a Washington-area hospital — and it is abhorrent. It is extraordinarily cruel, vicious, and — above all — dishonest. The editorial doesn’t just twist the truth to advance the board’s preferred narratives; it may even be libelous, a term I choose carefully.
Yesterday’s shooter, James Hodgkinson, left little doubt as to his political leanings and his political motivations. He was a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter, belonged to Facebook groups with names such as “Terminate the Republican Party” and “The Road to Hell is paved with Republicans,” and he was constantly sharing angry anti-GOP messages and memes. Before opening fire, he reportedly asked whether the players on the baseball field were Democrats or Republicans. In other words, all available signs point to an act of lone-wolf progressive political terror.
How does the Times deal with this evil act? The editorial begins innocently enough, describing the shooting and even forthrightly outlining Hodgkinson’s politics. But then, the board says this — and it’s worth quoting at length:
Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. 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.
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. 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. (Emphasis added.)
Let’s be blunt. In its zeal to create moral equivalencies and maintain a particular narrative about the past, the Times flat-out lied. There is simply no “link to political incitement” in Loughner’s murderous acts. The man was a paranoid schizophrenic who first got angry at Gabby Giffords years before Palin published her map.
The Times editorial board didn’t have far to go to understand Loughner’s motivations; it could have asked . . . New York Times reporters. In an excellent reported piece published just days after the Tucson shootings, the paper described Loughner’s mental illness and nonsensical political beliefs in disturbing detail. For example, as he descended into the depths of his disease, he not only spewed bizarre and incoherent political ideas, he rejected conventional math and grammar. In short, he broke with reality:
As he alienated himself from his small clutch of friends, grew contemptuous of women in positions of power and became increasingly oblivious to basic social mores, Mr. Loughner seemed to develop a dreamy alternate world, where the sky was sometimes orange, the grass sometimes blue and the Internet’s informational chaos provided refuge.
He had crazy left-wing views. He had crazy right-wing views. He was a conspiracy theorist who hated George Bush. One friend described him as liberal. (That’s another New York Times news link, by the way.) If you want to get a better idea of his thoughts, here’s an exact quote from one of his online screeds:
My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner!
Most people, who read this text, forget in the next 2 second!
The population of dreamers in the United States of America is less than 5%!
If 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E. then the previous year is 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.
987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E.
Therefore, the previous year of 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.
If B.C.E. years are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
Is there any evidence, any at all, that Palin’s map incited Loughner? Incitement is a legally significant term. According to the Supreme Court, it’s speech that’s directed to “producing imminent lawless action.” There is no credible argument that Sarah Palin incited anyone, much less Loughner, to kill her political opponents. The only “imminent” actions she hoped to incite were votes and political donations.
Palin is a public figure, and that means that newspapers rightly have a wide berth to attack her, to criticize her, and to make even the wildest arguments about her. They do not, however, have the right to intentionally lie about her. Given the body of evidence now available about Loughner, including evidence reported in their own paper, what is the editorial board’s defense?
Let’s not forget, this is the same editorial board that, one year ago, laid blame on Republican Christian politicians for an Orlando terrorist attack by a confessed Islamic jihadist. Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but the Times editors believed (again, without any evidence) that he was inspired in part by Republican objections to granting men access to women’s restrooms.
The editorial board should retract its editorial and apologize.
In addition to lying about Palin, the Times couldn’t resist yet another nonsensical attack on gun rights — claiming that “studies” have shown that armed citizens would “probably” kill or wound innocent bystanders in the effort to stop the killer. Which studies? In fact, we have considerable real-world experience showing that armed citizens can stop mass shootings without harming innocent civilians.
It’s frankly bizarre, given the current political climate, that the Times would reach back to attack Palin. After all, white supremacists have recently killed a number of innocent Americans. Why not condemn the surge in white-supremacist violence? The Times, however, seems desperate to discredit conventional, mainstream conservatism by tying it to the most heinous and violent acts. Thus, the editorial board peers into Omar Mateen’s jihadist mind and finds visions of Republican transgender bathroom bills. It rewrites the well-known history of the Tucson tragedy. Even when jihadists or progressives attack, it finds a way to slice and dice members of the GOP.
Keep in mind, this editorial didn’t come from a deranged Daily Kos commenter, but rather from America’s most important and prestigious newspaper. It’s a disgrace. On a day when Democratic members of Congress united with their Republican colleagues to unequivocally condemn an act of vicious violence, the Times chose to advance its political narrative. Truth be damned. Unity be damned. There is no excuse. The editorial board should retract its editorial and apologize. America’s most influential paper has unequivocally and inexcusably put politics over principle. Shame on the New York Times.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.