In the wake of the horrendous attempted massacre of the Republican Congressional Baseball team on Wednesday morning, it was somewhat impressive that most people in politics and the news media handled themselves pretty darn well. The focus of attention seemed to be in the right place, and the measured but defiant tone of the response appeared to be nearly pitch perfect.
Of course, like most conservatives, I am rather confident that if the assailant had been vocally PRO-Trump and had purposely singled out Democrats for potential mass murder, the reaction, especially within the news media, would have been VERY different. Among other things, Trump himself would have been immediately been directly blamed and old videos of violence had his campaign rallies would have been played (other than on Fox News) on a near perpetual loop.
But because, in real life, this shooter was clearly an ANTI-Trump liberal who went out of his way to let it be known that he was targeting Republicans, the incentives for the mainstream news media are not in line with them having a major freak-out here. Instead, it is all about NOT making this about politics and instead having us come together as a country to condemn this heinous act of senseless violence.
Gee, how convenient.
While the inherent hypocrisy of the media reaction to this horrendous event was galling, it was at least possible to take solace in the fact that, like a broken clock, the news media was finally getting this one mostly right. That was, until the editorial board of The New York Times effectively declared, “Hold my beer.”
In what reads like an over-the-top parody of a fringe left-wing website, the newspaper of record took an editorial position based on two complete and total falsehoods.
The first was this about the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords:
…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.
To say that “the link to political incitement was clear” and then connect it to Palin is not just untrue. It is an already proven lie in every possible way.
I remember that event exceedingly well because at the time was I was still in very close contact with Palin after having produced a documentary film about the media coverage of the 2008 election. Within minutes of hearing about the shooting, I emailed Sarah and her husband Todd to warn them that the media would try to blame her for this. Todd immediately responded with an ominously prescient, “We know.”
So while Palin was indeed nonsensically impugned at the time by a news media which saw opportunities to criticize her like a child sees their favorite candy, the entire concept was quickly and easily debunked. Blaming her now is like trying to claim the fully exonerated Richard Jewell really was responsible for the 1996 Olympic bombing.
Laughner was mentally ill, by all accounts a liberal who was not even politically motivated, and became fixated with Giffords well before anyone ever even heard of Sarah Palin, or some “targeted” congressional districts on a website there is no chance he ever visited. Palin had as much to do with provoking that tragedy as my five-year old daughter did.
So why did The Times still decide to make this discredited charge, even on a day which was mostly devoted to NOT assessing political blame? Well, the easy answer is that their editorial board is made up entirely of liberals and that there was no one in the room to say, “Hey, wait a minute guys, this part here is bullcrap!”
But I also think that this partly came about because of the incredible power of a narrative that the media likes, in comparison to one from which they don’t benefit. It is almost as if, because they loved the “Palin caused the Giffords shooting” fairytale so much that, even after realizing it was false, the information was discarded from their memory banks because it was just too uncomfortable for them to retain.
But The Times didn’t stop there. When referring to the events of yesterday, they farted out this gem:
“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 shooter from Wednesday could not have made it clearer why he did this if he had taken out a full page ad in The Times beforehand explaining how his hatred of Republicans was motivating him to kill innocent people. As for signs of “incitement,” apparently The Times is under the delusion that their fellow high-minded liberals never engage in the kind dangerous “hate speech” for which they routinely criticize those on the right.
I guess the story of Kathy Griffin recently holding Trump’s bloody decapitated head just didn’t get enough news coverage for anyone at The Times to notice. I can’t seem to find any record of Palin doing the same kind of thing with Barack Obama. I must have just missed it, or maybe I forgot about it because it didn’t fit with my political agenda.
When the news media gets frustrated about why no one right of center will believe their reporting about how horrible/dangerous President Trump (you know, the same guy they let be the GOP nominee because it was good for business and, they thought, for Hillary Clinton) is, they need not look any further than this episode to understand why this is the case.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.