The New York Times’ opinion editor James Bennet has resigned following outrage over a piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton last week, the BBC reported on Monday.
Cotton’s piece backed US President Donald Trump’s threat that he would send in the troops to stop the protests that were the result of the murder of George Floyd, an African American, at the hands of the police in Minneapolis.
Cotton’s article ‘Send in the Troops’ resulted in the New York Times getting a lot of flak, with its African American employees protesting on social media, with tweets saying that the piece was proof that the newspaper was ‘not a safe working space for black people’.
The News Guild of New York also put out a statement saying, "The moments that are hardest to bear witness are also the moments that none of us can afford to look away from. Read our statement on the racist policing targeting Black people and the shameful and brazen attacks on the civil rights and liberties of protestors and journalists.”
James Bennet defended the article getting published, arguing that ‘The Times was a place where contrarian pieces could be published’. Bennet put out a series of tweets, defending his stance on putting up the piece. “The Times editorial board has forcefully defended the protests as patriotic and criticised the use of force, saying earlier today that police too often have “responded with more violence — against protesters, journalists and bystanders. We’ve also crusaded for years against the underlying, systemic cruelties that led to these protests. As part of our explorations of these issues, Times Opinion has published powerful arguments supporting protests, advocating fundamental change and criticising police abuses. Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy. 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.”
This too did not go down well, and he drew a lot of flak for the statement.
After initially standing by the piece, the New York Times said that the article ‘did not meet’ its standards.
In a note to staff on Sunday, New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger said: "Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we've experienced in recent years."
Sulzberger's email announced that Jim Dao, who oversees op-eds as a deputy in the opinion section, will be moved to another role, while Katie Kingsbury will become acting opinion editorial page editor.