NYT decision to publish Tom Cotton op-ed draws widespread backlash

The New York Times was the target of widespread criticism on Wednesday after its opinion section published an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) calling for a military response to protests across the nation sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The Times published Cotton’s op-ed, titled “Tom Cotton: Send In The Troops,” on Wednesday afternoon, in which he called for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.”

The backlash was swift, and much of it came from within the Times itself.

Numerous staffers argued that publishing such sentiments endangered the lives of black journalists at the newspaper.

The op-ed was also criticized by reporters at other outlets. BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray questioned whether Times editors realized “that ‘debate’ can occur somewhere else outside its own pages.”

“The New York Times put black people and black journalists in danger with that Tom Cotton piece,” added Washington Post global opinions editor Karen Attiah. “This is not okay.”

In a series of tweets, Times editorial page editor James Bennet wrote that the view expressed by Cotton “requires public scrutiny and debate.”

“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he wrote. “We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous. We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”

Bennet’s explanation was also criticized across Twitter, including by Business Insider political correspondent Sonam Sheth, who wrote that Bennet’s tweets failed to address “the responsibility the paper has to fact-check when the people writing those counter-arguments push verifiable and easily debunked falsehoods.”

Sam Wang, a scientist at Princeton University, added that Bennet was “normalizing the abnormal” by publishing Cotton’s column.

Protests have engulfed cities around the country for days in response to the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who was seen on video handcuffed on the ground while a police officer knelt on his neck. Four police officers have been charged in his death, including one who faces a second-degree murder charge.

Tags George Floyd protests James Bennet Senate The New York Times Tom Cotton
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