NYT opinion editor quits amid fallout from publishing senator's call to deploy military against rioters
The opinion editor of the New York Times has resigned, after his apology for publishing Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s call for deploying the military to quell unrest in US cities was apparently insufficient to quell editorial unrest.
James Bennet quit on Sunday after what was described as an “open revolt” by staffers offended by the decision to publish the Republican senator’s opinion. Deputy opinion editor Jim Dao has also stepped down, demoted to an unspecified “new role in the newsroom” not on the masthead. The changes were announced in a memo from publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who lamented the “significant breakdown in our editing processes.”
James Bennet has resigned as head of @nytopinion.Here’s the note from NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger. pic.twitter.com/EWrF68bjHo— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) June 7, 2020
The scorned editor released his own statement gushing over the importance of the Times, declaring the outlet’s work has “never mattered more than in this time of crisis” and affirming his pride in his colleagues.
Bennet’s replacement, Katie Kingsbury, will “lead a process in the coming weeks and months to implement changes in how the opinion department works and in how decisions get made,” Sulzberger hinted, adding that he’d be taking a more hands-on role. There were definite overtones of a crackdown on ‘wrongthink’ as Sulzberger stated: “We will begin work to reinvent the op-ed format so that readers understand why we choose to elevate each argument and where it fits in the national debate.”
Cotton, however, was not pleased, accusing the Times of mischaracterizing his piece by suggesting he’d called for using military force against “protesters” rather than “to stop riots.”
This is false and offensive. I called for using military force as a backup—only if police are overwhelmed—to stop riots, not to be used against protesters. If @nytimes has any decency left, they should retract this smear. https://t.co/9qJLgWSwlP— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 7, 2020
“If @nytimes has any decency left, they should retract this smear,” he tweeted on Sunday.
President Donald Trump also had harsh words for the Times, calling it “Fake News!!!” and declaring that Cotton’s home state of Arkansas was “very proud” of him.
Opinion Editor at @nytimes just walked out. That’s right, he quit over the excellent Op-Ed penned by our great Senator @TomCottonAR. TRANSPARENCY! The State of Arkansas is very proud of Tom. The New York Times is Fake News!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2020
While Bennet had initially defended the decision to publish Cotton’s piece, stating it was the paper’s responsibility to show its readers “counter-arguments” by “those in a position to set public policy,” he caved to the outrage mob on Saturday, issuing an apology “for the pain that this particular piece has caused.” Numerous Times staffers had come forward to condemn the op-ed, claiming it put their lives in danger.
While the paper, too, initially stood by the publication of an opinion that diverged significantly from those of the editorial staff, it later walked that back, calling the “editorial process” “rushed and flawed” given the “life-and-death importance of the topic” and the “gravity of the steps [Cotton] advocates.”Also on rt.com All Tom Cotton has to do to get back in the NYTimes’ good graces is call for the US military to bomb ANOTHER country’s civilians
The Times has previously published op-eds by its regular opinion columnists coming forward with extreme solutions to the world’s problems: Thomas Friedman’s suggestion that the US find common cause with the Islamic State terrorist group (IS, formerly ISIS) against Syrian President Bashar Assad comes to mind. Tellingly, none resulted in the firing of any editorial staff.
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