NYT Staffers Rail Against Publication Of Cotton’s ‘Send In the Troops’ Op-Ed

on June 30, 2016 in New York City. Cunningham passed away at the age of 87 on Saturday, June 25th in Manhattan.
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Pedestrians walk by the outside The New York Times building where photographer Bill Cunningham worked on June 30, 2016 in New York City. Cunningham passed away at the age of 87 on Saturday, J... NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Pedestrians walk by the outside The New York Times building where photographer Bill Cunningham worked on June 30, 2016 in New York City. Cunningham passed away at the age of 87 on Saturday, June 25th in Manhattan. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 4, 2020 10:33 a.m.

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.

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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.

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.”

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.

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. 

“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.” 

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