Babylon Bee demands retraction from New York Times as defamation claims stack up

The Babylon Bee demanded a retraction Thursday from the New York Times over an article calling the Christian satirical outlet an example of a “far-right misinformation site” as defamation claims against the newspaper start to pile up.

Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon cited a March 19 NYT article, “For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn’t Recognize Irony,” which characterized the Bee as a website that “used ‘satire’ claims to protect their presence on the platform.”

“Yesterday our counsel sent a letter to @nytimes demanding a retraction. We took this action because their article was — and remains — defamatory,” tweeted Mr. Dillon in a thread. 

He continued: “For better or worse, the NY Times is considered a ‘reliable source.’ We cannot stand idly by as they act with malice to misrepresent us in ways that jeopardize our business.”

Mr. Dillon stopped short of threatening a lawsuit, but the Bee’s news arm, Not the Bee, hinted at legal action with the headline, “Lawyered-up Babylon Bee accuses New York Times of defamation, demands retraction.”

The NYT did publish a clarification in March after being called out by the Bee, but Mr. Dillon said that the “update was no better than the original.”

The newspaper said: “[Updated March 22, 2021: The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning satirical site, has feuded with Facebook and the fact-checking site Snopes over whether the site published misinformation or satire.]”

Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford responded that the “update is still damning of us, especially given its context in the paragraph and article at large, and still precisely worded to cast doubt on the Bee’s legitimacy as a satire outlet. What a joke.”

Mr. Dillon pointed out that Snopes revised the wording of a 2019 “fact-check” and issued an editors’ note saying it was not their intent to impute “deceptive intent on the part of the Babylon Bee.”

“It’s therefore misleading and malicious to characterize that incident as a feud, as if Snopes ever openly stood by the claim that we are misinformation and not satire,” said Mr. Dillon.

Its treatment of right-tilting figures has already mired the New York Times in a pair of headline-grabbing legal battles over defamation.

In August, a federal judge ruled against the NYT’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who sued over a 2017 editorial that linked her to the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, Arizona Democrat.

A NYT spokesperson told Reuters in an Aug. 28 statement that the newspaper was “disappointed in the ruling but are confident we will prevail at trial when a jury hears the facts.”

In March, the NYT lost its bid to dismiss a legal challenge filed by Project Veritas over the newspaper’s coverage of its investigation into alleged ballot-harvesting in Minneapolis.

New York Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lefkowitz granted Tuesday a brief reprieve to the NYT in response to its request to put off discovery in the Project Veritas case until after a decision in its appeal. A hearing is scheduled for June 21.

Project Veritas president James O’Keefe has vowed to depose multiple NYT reporters and editors during the discovery phase and post the depositions online.

“Project Veritas believes in transparency,” said the group in a statement. “We will fight any attempt to delay discovery. On June 14, 2021, we will file our opposition.”

In a March 21 statement, a NYT spokesperson said that the paper’s reporting “played an important role in examining the kind of information that was presented to citizens about voting and voting fraud during the election. The Times intends to appeal.”

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