The Economist hires former NYT editor who resigned following Cotton editorial

Greg Nash

The Economist has hired the former editorial page director at The New York Times, James Bennet, who resigned last year after the newspaper published a controversial op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.). 

Bennet is joining The Economist on Feb. 1 as a “visiting senior editor” for one year, the outlet confirmed to The Hill. He will primarily write on foreign policy and other matters and advise on “ambitious digital initiatives planned for the months ahead,” according to editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes.

“James is an outstanding editor and journalist,” Beddoes said. “I’m delighted that we will benefit from his talent and expertise.”  

Serving as the Times’s editorial page director since 2016, Bennet resigned in June of 2020 after his department and newspaper leadership were on the receiving end of backlash following a decision to publish an op-ed from Cotton advocating for using military force to control Black Lives Matter protests in American cities.

“The American people aren’t blind to injustices in our society, but they know that the most basic responsibility of government is to maintain public order and safety,” Cotton wrote. “In normal times, local law enforcement can uphold public order. But in rare moments, like ours today, more is needed, even if many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns.” 

The Times later issued a later clarification and apology for publishing the piece, saying that its publication failed to live up to its journalistic standards. 

“The basic arguments advanced by Senator Cotton — however objectionable people may find them — represent a newsworthy part of the current debate,” a 325-word editor’s note that sits atop the piece online reads. “But given the life-and-death importance of the topic, the senator’s influential position and the gravity of the steps he advocates, the essay should have undergone the highest level of scrutiny. Instead, the editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved.” 

In a statement at the time of his resignation, Bennet said he was proud of the work he has done at the Times. 

“The journalism of Times Opinion has never mattered more than in this time of crisis at home and around the world, and I’ve been honored to be part of it,” he said. “I’m so proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to focus attention on injustice and threats to freedom and to enrich debate about the right path forward by bringing new voices and ideas to Times readers.”

Times leadership reportedly told staffers after Bennet’s resignation it was taking new measures to “reinvent the Op-Ed format so that readers understand why we choose to elevate” certain ideas and arguments. 

Bennet is the younger brother of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). 

Tags James Bennet Michael Bennet newspapers The New York Times Tom Cotton Tom Cotton

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