NYT Corrects Editorial: ‘No Such Link’ Between ‘Incitement,’ Giffords Shooting

The New York Times issued a correction for a staff editorial on Thursday, noting the initial piece, “America’s Lethal Politics,” inaccurately stated a link between “political incitement” and the shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) at a “Congress on Your Corner” event.

“An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords,” the correction reads. “In fact, no such link was established.”

The editorial was largely in response to a shooting early Wednesday at a Republican congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The alleged shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, regularly posted online about his left-leaning views and hatred of Republicans. “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co,” he wrote in March.

Though the Times’ correction did not include specific corrected passages, a cached copy of the post shows changes the paper made.

“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,” the original post read.

In the corrected version, the last clause is replaced with a new sentence: “At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right.”

In the corrected editorial, the first clause of the following sentence is deleted as well: “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.”

Finally, after the sentence “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,” the corrected post adds another sentence: “But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.”

Indeed, many outlets initially speculated that Sarah Palin’s map of congressional districts with targets placed over Democrats may have motivated Giffords’ shooter, the mentally disturbed Jared Loughner, to carefully plan and carry out the attack.

Lougher was eventually found to have read and supported a variety of fringe ideologies. A friend recalled to Mother Jones that Loughner told him he asked Giffords at an earlier event, “What is government if words have no meaning?”

Giffords, for her part, made a different point in the the Washington Post following Wednesday’s shooting.

“We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this,” she wrote. “But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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