Dozens of New York Times staffers erupted in outrage at the newspaper publishing an op-ed from Republican senator Tom Cotton urging President Trump to call out the US military to crackdown on protests that have turned violent in many parts of the country.
In the piece headlined “Tom Cotton: Send In the Troops,” the Arkansas lawmaker said Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to end the looting, arson and attacks on law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis.
“But the rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes,” Cotton wrote in the op-ed published Wednesday.
“These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives. Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further,” he argued.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize in May for the Times “1619 Project,” said on Twitter: “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.”
Charlie Warzel, who works on the newspaper’s opinion staff, posted: “i disagree with every word in that Tom Cotton op-ed and it does not reflect my values.”
Roxane Gay, an advice columnist in the Times business section, called Cotton’s op-ed “inflammatory” and said he was “endorsing military occupation as if the constitution didn’t exist.”
“As a NYT writer I absolutely stand in opposition to that Tom Cotton ‘editorial.’ We are well served by robust and ideologically diverse public discourse that includes radical, liberal, and conservative voices,” Gay said in another tweet.
The NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents many Times employees, released a statement claiming “Cotton’s Op-Ed pours gasoline on the fire” and “promotes hate.”
“Media organizations have a responsibility to hold power to account, not amplify voices of power without context and caution,” it said.
James Bennet, the editorial page editor, explained his reasoning on Twitter in a thread.
“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he wrote. “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.”
The Times was also criticized by Democratic lawmakers for a headline about Trump’s plan to deploy the military at protesters, which they eventually changed.
The president threatened to invoke the 1807 law to use the country’s armed forces unless the nation’s governors take forceful steps to control the rallies.
“As Chaos Spreads, Trump Vows to ‘End It Now,” the headline in Tuesday’s paper said.
After the outrage, it was changed to: “Trump Threatens to Send Troops into States.”
Trump addressed the headline change in a tweet on Thursday.
“The Fake Newspaper!,” he wrote.