Staffers at The New York Times criticized the paper for publishing a controversial op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that advocated an “overwhelming show of force,” including the deployment of the military to quash rioters and anarchists who he says have infiltrated and tainted anti-racism protests across the country.
The op-ed’s message, encapsulated by the headline “Send in The Troops,” was published in the Times on Wednesday. It was quickly met with criticism from journalists and editors both in and outside of the organization for propping up an ideology that promoted the use of violence by a government to quell its citizens’ right to protest.
Dozens of Times journalists tweeted out their disapproval of the decision to publish the op-ed.
Jenna Wortham, a black woman writer for the outlet’s magazine, said she feared the invitation of violence by way of military force put black staffers at the publication at risk, while Nikole Hannah-Jones expressed similar concern and dismay.
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
A former opinion editor for the publication, Sewell Chan, suggested that the decision to provide a platform for a perspective that incites violence and potentially endangers lives “falls short of sound journalistic practice.”
THREAD: As a former @nytimes Op-Ed editor I am reluctant to weigh in on my alma mater. But the decision to publish @SenTomCotton calling for troop deployments to quell unrest falls short of sound journalistic practice. pic.twitter.com/SgXSndkq8l
— Sewell Chan (@sewellchan) June 3, 2020
Another ex-staffer, who teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, argued that the publication of the piece could be read as a “stamp of approval” on Cotton’s argument.
Olivia this isn’t a bad opinion. NYT has no reason to give a platform to someone making an argument for using lethal force against American citizens exercising constitutional rights. The same constitution that gives him title of senator. Why the NYT stamp of approval?
— Ginger Thompson (@gingerthomp1) June 4, 2020
Marc Tracy, a media reporter for the Times, noted in a separate article on the issue that the news and editorial sides of the publication run “separately,” as is the case at newspapers across the country. That distinction is “sometimes lost on readers,” he wrote.
Editorial page editor James Bennet defended the decision to publish Cotton’s piece, tweeting a thread of examples of how the Times has routinely stood on the side of protesters and the right of Americans to lawfully protest.
The Times editorial board has forcefully defended the protests as patriotic and criticized the use of force, saying earlier today that police too often have “responded with more violence — against protesters, journalists and bystanders.” https://t.co/XdjnhuAVax
— James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020
“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous,” Bennet wrote. “We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”