NYT Writers Slam Cotton Op-Ed: It Puts Black Staff in Danger

Arkansas senator wants US military to handle George Floyd protests
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2020 7:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – In what Fox News calls an "open revolt," New York Times staffers pushed back on their employer after the paper published a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton titled "Send In the Troops." In his piece, the Arkansas senator argues for using the US military to handle what he calls the "orgy of violence" surrounding the protests over George Floyd's death. "One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain, and ultimately deter lawbreakers," Cotton writes, adding: "The nation must restore order. The military stands ready." His take didn't go over well, especially among Times staffers and contributors themselves, several of whom posted screenshots of the op-ed, along with the words "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger," per CNN Business. Here, a roundup of some of the reactions on Cotton's piece, as reported by Fox, Forbes, CNN, and the Times:

  • James Bennet, Times editorial page editor: "Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy," Bennet wrote in a Twitter thread explaining the paper's decision to run the op-ed. "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."

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  • NewsGuild of New York: Cotton's message "promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence," the union representing many Times journalists noted in a statement. "We find the publication of this essay to be an irresponsible choice," it added, citing the piece's "lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and the timing of its call to arms."
  • NYT Magazine correspondent Nikole Hannah-Jones: "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," she wrote.
  • Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie: "The piece is irresponsible and should have never been published," he writes. "If Cotton wants to call for military force against Americans (and lay the groundwork for his inevitable presidential campaign), he has plenty of platforms from which to do it as a US senator."
  • Contributor Roxane Gay: "We are well served by robust and ideologically diverse public discourse that includes radical, liberal, and conservative voices," she noted. "This is not that. His piece was inflammatory and endorsing military occupation as if the constitution doesn't exist."
  • Freelance writer Thor Benson: "The Times publishing Tom Cotton's abhorrent op-ed is unacceptable, and there should be resignations," he tweeted, calling himself a "free speech absolutist" but adding that "Tom Cotton has plenty of places to express himself as a senator, and he does. The Times doesn't need to help him do it, and publishing that piece was a terrible decision."

  • Three unidentified Times journalists: They say they've let their editors know they now have sources who've decided to stop working with them because of Cotton's piece.
  • David Brooks: "I believe in democracy. I believe in a free press. I believe in open debate. I love it when my newspaper prints pieces I disagree with. It causes me to think," the Times columnist wrote in a tweet that itself got plenty of pushback.
  • Olivia Nuzzi: The New York Magazine writer, who calls herself a "radical when it comes to the free press," found herself, like Brooks, in the minority, with her take that "the best way to shut down a bad opinion is not to suppress it but to share a better opinion." Bouie put it to her thusly: "Let's say Stephen Miller called for forcibly sterilizing every Hispanic immigrant in the country. Should the Times run that op-ed?"
  • US Sen. Brian Schatz: The Hawaii senator offered a tongue-in-cheek dig at the paper, noting, "I've submitted non-fascist opinion pieces to the Times in the past but no luck so maybe this is just sour grapes."
(Read more Tom Cotton stories.)

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