James Bennet testifies in Sarah Palin’s defamation case

Sarah Palin and the New York Times building

On the left, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) enters Manhattan federal court at 500 Pearl Street, where her case against the New York Times is taking place. The newspaper’s headquarters is on the right.

Before New York Times editor, who wrote the opinion piece that sparked the former Governor of Alaska. Sarah Palin’s libel the lawsuit admitted in his testimony that he worried it would be seen as “partisan score protection” in linking the original VP candidate to a massacre.

Before Times editor James Bennet testified that his real intention was to disparage extremist rhetoric in American politics, but he understood why it would be taken less seriously from the outside.

Bennet is the author of the editorial “America’s Deadly Politics“A reaction to the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting that injured a congressman. Steve Scalise (R-La.). As details emerge about the shooter James Hodgkinson—Whose social media posts show his support for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And disgusted with the then President Donald Trump-the Times The editorial board discussed how to respond to the incident with a piece about what they described as “evil” political rhetoric and gun availability.

“It won’t surprise me”

The resulting editorial compared the Hodgkinson shooting to the 2011 massacre by Jared Lee Loughnerwho killed six and wounded 13, including Representative. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

At least for about 12 hours, Bennet’s editorial argued that “the link to political agitation is clear” to Loughner’s rampage. He noted that Palin’s political action committee had circulated a stylized cross-shaped map of the Giffords constituency and that of 19 other Democrats. Half a day will pass before Times will quote that and note that no link has been established between the map and the footage.

As Palin’s lawyer Shane Vogt began his question Tuesday, he asked Bennet if he would be surprised if readers interpreted the word “incitement” to mean its dictionary definition.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Bennet replied.

As the trial began last week, Palin’s case against Times has become the rare case against the article to reach a jury. Supreme Court precedent in Sullivan v. Times created a high bar for public figures to sue the press for libel: the standard of actual malice, simply showing that inaccuracies have been published is not enough. One way to create real malice is to show a reckless disregard for the truth.

Palin’s legal team claims to be able to do this because an earlier draft of the article was written by Times journalist Elizabeth Williamson No offensive language. Williamson, who testified earlier in the trial, never mentioned “incitement” and even included a hyperlink in an early draft to an ABC News article that explicitly stated: No connection is made between [the Map] and the shooting in Arizona. ”

Williamson alluded to the map in her original editorial, without explicitly blaming Palin for it.

Bennet clearly had a bit of an independent conception of the controversial map during his own rewrite.

“You don’t have a mental picture of the map in your head, do you?” Vogt asked him.

“No, I’m basing it on Elizabeth’s description of it in the piece,” he admitted.

Bennet admitted that he has never faced disciplinary action over the editorial.

“I went to the board of directors to accept responsibility for the mistake and apologize,” Bennet said, adding that he was not asked to do so.

He said he doesn’t know if that qualifies as a reprimand, “but it feels like a reprimand.”

“Have you ever apologized to Governor Palin?” Vogt asked.

“My hope was the result of this process, now I have,” Bennet replied.

The Times The editorial board had a policy against apologizing for the subject of news stories, according to Palin’s legal team.

“Questioning People’s Assumptions”

A Yale graduate has Times A career that included a stint as a White House and Jerusalem correspondent, Bennet parted with the Gray Lady for a time to become editor-in-chief of the Atlantic magazine. His former employer hired him back in May 2016, until he resigned about 4 years later amid controversy over his decision to run for office. an editorial by Sen. Cotton Tom (R-Ark.).

Titled “Send the Army,” the senator’s option called for the deployment of federal forces into U.S. cities in response to racial justice protests across the country. Bennet guard its publication, even as his own editorial board rebelled.

Quiz old friendsTimes Editor of his philosophy of journalism, Vogt quoted Bennet as saying: “Nobody is 100% right. So a writer must listen carefully, must question everyone’s assumptions, including his own”.

“Is that how you want to practice journalism?” Vogt said.

After asking to read the quote again, Bennet agreed, “That’s definitely how I aspire to be a journalist.”

Senior Judge of the United States Jed Rakoff interjected: “The one exception is that the federal judges are 100% right.”

Although the riddle caused laughter in the courtroom, the trial was a testament to one of the judge’s flaws. Rakoff initially dismissed Palin’s suit before it was dismissed by the Second Court, which found that his fact-collecting hearing prior to the motion for dismissal was inadmissible. receive. That judicial lapse caused the case to be discovered, where Palin had access to the inside Times communications.

Some of those communications were leaked, including the exchange between Bennet and Times Categories Ross Douthatwho sent an email at 10 p.m. complaining of a connection between Palin and the Loughner shooting.

Bennet promised to look into the matter the next morning, and he asserted that the aim was generally to denounce overly heated political rhetoric, although Bennet explicitly acknowledged that it might look different from the outside.

“I see your point as somewhat partisan scoring,” admits Bennet wrote.

In the newspaper’s second attempt to launch the case under summary judgment, Rakoff ruled that Palin had gathered enough evidence of reckless disregard for the truth for a jury to hear the case.

The Times reported that it hasn’t lost a defamation lawsuit in over 50 years. The Sullivan Standards have been law in the United States since 1964.

(Palin photo via Spencer Platt / Getty Images; NYT building photo via JOHANNES EISELE / AFP via Getty Images)

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected]

https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/former-new-york-times-editor-whose-incitement-editorial-sparked-sarah-palins-lawsuit-testifies-he-worried-about-appearance-of-partisan-scorekeeping/ James Bennet testifies in Sarah Palin’s defamation case

James Brien

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