Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) published a seething op-ed titled “Send in the Troops” in the New York Times on Wednesday, which was met with swift criticism from readers who rebuked the newspaper for providing the senator with such a platform.
The piece applauds what many have called an appalling use of police force against law-abiding protesters.
Cotton condemned a spirit of “lawlessness” on America’s streets, arguing that what began as peaceful protest has been co-opted by bad actors and devolved into “riots for the thrill-seeking rich as well as other criminal elements.” Cotton ultimately used the essay to advocate for the use of the Insurrection Act — a seldom-used power that would enable the President to activate the full power of the military to calm streets and presumably “restore order.”
Although the comments section was not enabled on the op-ed, responses came in rapidly on Twitter.
A HuffPost reporter went so far as to describe the piece as “openly authoritarian.”
This is the most openly authoritarian piece of writing I've read from an American politician who has been in power during my lifetime.https://t.co/moJsEcQbRR
— Zach Carter (@zachdcarter) June 3, 2020
The Columbia Journalism Review’s public editor for The New York Times suggested that the op-ed was fundamentally inaccurate in its description of the scenes from protests that unfolded over the past week.
I live within walking distance of Barclays Center and have seen a lot of activity related to protests in recent days. This is not what I saw… at all. The fallacy at the heart of this argument is equating all protesters with looting. https://t.co/x153MMR1wR pic.twitter.com/SumhoxE4yl
— Gabriel Snyder (@gabrielsnyder) June 3, 2020
Former Pentagon speechwriter John Gans suggested it was the type of writing one would anticipate from a person eager to “inherit Trumpism”:
This is not an oped people who want to inherit cabinet positions write.
It's an oped candidates who want to to inherit Trumpism write.
"Send In the Troops" https://t.co/klcAoVoj9a
— John Gans (@johngansjr) June 3, 2020
The Times’ opinion section has come under fire a number of times in recent months, especially around conservative columnist Bret Stephens’ work.
According to the Times’ website for tips and explainers about submitting an op-ed, the editors are “interested in anything well-written with a fact-based viewpoint we believe readers will find worthwhile.”
The Times did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.