Ross Douthat sent an email telling Bennet he was wrong and Bennet promised to look at it again in the morning. Another editor sent an email to Williamson asking who was responsible for the line about political incitement and Sarah Palin. Williamson, who apparently hadn’t noticed how much Bennet had revised her draft on this point said that had been in the draft all along.

Then, sometime shortly before midnight, Bennet sent an email to Williamson: “Are you up? The right is coming after us…” He must not have slept much that night because the following morning he had sent an email to his team at 5:08 am: “Hey guys — We’re taking a lot of criticism for saying that the attack on Giffords was in any way connected to incitement.… I don’t know what the truth is here, but we may have relied too heavily on our early editorials and other early coverage of that attack. If so, I’m very sorry for my own failure on this yesterday. … I’d like to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible this morning and correct the piece if needed.”

So if you’re following this closely, Bennet went from not knowing what was true in the early afternoon, to knowing in the evening that Palin was responsible as he rewrote the editorial, and then back to not knowing the following morning. The Times’ lawyers want to say that this proves it was all a mistake, i.e. he didn’t know he was wrong. But how can that be so if he stated he didn’t know the truth before the rewrite? Once he’d admitted that, wasn’t it his responsibility to research the connection before stating categorically that it existed? But Bennet claimed in his deposition that he never looked at any of the links provided to him, including the one Williamson had buried in her draft.

Read the whole thing, which is a classic example of what W. Joseph Campbell would call a media-created myth that refuses to die. Perhaps only a victory by Palin in her defamation suit will finish this lie off. As John Sexton writes above, because Palin is a public figure, victory “won’t be easy but the judge in the case did agree it’s not impossible because the Times’ work, in particular that of now-former editor James Bennet on this piece was spectacularly awful.”