James Bennet, editorial page editor of The New York Times, leaves federal court on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in New York. (Source: AP Photo) Related News
Former Alaska governor ’s lawyer seemed to be fishing for an apology as he grilled an editorial page editor at The New York Times in a federal courtroom on Wednesday. Attorney Kenneth Turkel questioned Times editorial page editor James Bennet over his role in the creation of a June editorial about gun control after a shooter opened fire on Republican lawmakers in Virginia, wounding US Rep. Steve Scalise.
The editorial, titled “America’s Lethal Politics,” was corrected twice after some readers complained that it appeared to blame a political action committee belonging to Palin, a former Republican vice presidential candidate, for “political incitement” before the 2011 shooting of then-Arizona US Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Turkel noted that the Times never mentioned Palin, who was not in court Wednesday, by name in its online corrections or in a statement Bennet issued after the editorial was published. “Did you apologize to her?” the lawyer asked Bennet.
“We did not apologize to her,” Bennet responded at a Manhattan hearing called by US District Judge Jed Rakoff to help him decide by the end of August whether the lawsuit can proceed to a stage that would let Palin’s lawyers obtain emails and other potential evidence from the Times.
The subject of an apology has arisen before. In her lawsuit, Palin’s lawyers complained that the newspaper had “an unwavering refusal to issue a meaningful apology to Mrs. Palin.” The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, also said the Times failed to “issue a public apology to Mrs. Palin for stating that she incited murder.”
In court papers, the Times said the editorial “does not attribute any conduct to Mrs. Palin.” The piece originally accused a Palin political action committee of distributing a map depicting Democratic lawmakers beneath crosshairs.
Later, the newspaper issued a correction noting that the map actually showed electoral districts, not people, in crosshairs. The Times also said in the June 16 correction that the editorial “incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.”
During testimony, Bennet cited deadline pressures as he explained that he did not personally research the information about Palin’s political action committee before approving the editorial’s publication. He said he believed the editorial was accurate when it was published. He said he began working on correcting the editorial at 5 a.m. the following day after reading complaints from readers. “We were scrambling, I will say, a little bit,” Bennet said. “I was doing 10 other things that day.”
Turkel attempted to discredit Bennet, suggesting that he might have been influenced by the fact that Palin last year had endorsed an opponent of his brother, US Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat.
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