NYT fact checker missed statement about Palin in 2017 op-ed

A New York Times fact checker said in court Monday that she had not looked into a 2017 op-ed’s claim of a clear link between a map released by Sarah Palin’s political action committee and the 2011 mass shooting that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords.

Eileen Lepping, who appeared in Palin’s trial in Manhattan federal court against The Times via video, said the error could be attributed to a “combination of things”, including that she worked quickly because she respected delays.

Lepping was responding to questions from Judge Jed Rakoff, who asked him about the fact-checking process so that he clearly understood the answers she gave during her testimony to attorneys for Palin and the Times.

Rakoff asked her about particular lines in the op-ed, including the claim there was a ‘clear’ link that showed the 2011 shooting was politically instigated by a map released by the action committee. Palin’s politics.

The map showed congressional districts, including Giffords, under stylized crosshairs that looked like rifle sights.

The New York Times claimed Palin’s PAC card is a “clear” link to the mass shooting involving Giffords in 2011.
Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Giffords Law Center

“Is that because those aren’t the kinds of facts you’re checking, or was that an oversight or what?” Rakoff asked.

“It could have been a combination of things… I was checking things quickly on schedule… my reading led me not to have looked at this specifically,” Lepping replied.

“I did my best in the time I had,” she added.

Palin sued the Times in 2017 over the editorial titled “America’s Lethal Politics” and published after a gunman opened fire on congressional Republicans at a Northern Virginia baseball field.

The editorial mentioned the mass shooting in Arizona years earlier and claimed that “the link to political incitement was clear”.

Palin arriving in court for the libel trial on February 7, 2022.
Palin arriving in court for the libel trial on February 7, 2022.
Alec Tabak for NYPost

“Prior to the shooting, Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under a stylized crosshair,” the editorial read.

Lepping said Monday that the morning after the op-ed was published, she reviewed a police report indicating the Arizona shooter was not politically motivated. The Times corrected the editorial the day after it was published.

In a statement last week, a Times spokesperson said the error was unintentional and Palin’s lawsuit was without merit.

Lepping said the fact-checking error could be because she was working on schedule.
Lepping said the fact-checking error could be because she was working on schedule.
Alec Tabak for NYPost

“In this lawsuit, we seek to reaffirm a fundamental principle of American law: public figures should not be allowed to sue for defamation to punish unintentional errors by news organizations,” the spokesperson said.

“We published an editorial on an important topic that contained an inaccuracy. We have set the record straight with a correction,” they added.

James Bennet, the former editorial page editor, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit and is expected to testify at trial later this week.

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