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.
— Lindsey Underwood (@thunderwooddd) June 3, 2020
— Jen Parker (@JenParker393) June 3, 2020
I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral. As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this. https://t.co/lU1KmhH2zH
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 4, 2020
Supporting my colleagues, and particularly the black ones. if electeds want to make provocative arguments let them withstand the questions and context of a news story, not unvarnished and unchecked https://t.co/MwiD8BenzO
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) June 4, 2020
Surreal and horrifying to wake up on the morning of June 4 – the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown – to this headline. pic.twitter.com/vNtiFz3vqq
— Amy Qin (@amyyqin) June 4, 2020
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.”
Tom Cotton is able to (and has) made his views on this publicly clear elsewhere. Does NYT not realize that “debate” can occur somewhere else outside its own pages https://t.co/w42PZ41TNI
— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) June 4, 2020
“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.”
The New York Times put black people and black journalists in danger with that Tom Cotton piece.
This is not okay.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) June 4, 2020
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.”
Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy.
— James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020
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.
— James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020
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.”
This thread from Bennet is incredible because it goes into how NYT wants to show its readers “counter-arguments” without addressing the responsibility the paper has to fact-check when the people writing those counter-arguments push verifiable and easily debunked falsehoods.
— Sonam Sheth (@sonam_sheth) June 4, 2020
Sam Wang, a scientist at Princeton University, added that Bennet was “normalizing the abnormal” by publishing Cotton’s column.
No, @JBennet, don’t even try. Unless you plan to start publishing opinion pieces on
– genocide (every nation deserves a fresh start!),
– pedophilia (let’s teach the controversy!), or
– financial fraud (ambition is as old as America!),
you are just normalizing the abnormal. https://t.co/iU8K0VyXh2
— Sam Wang (@SamWangPhD) June 4, 2020
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.