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New York Times Staffers React With Fury Over Tom Cotton's "Send In the Troops" Op-Ed

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 6/4/2020 Abid Rahman

The New York Times newsroom is in open rebellion over an op-ed the newspaper's opinion section published Wednesday that called for the Army to be deployed into American cities to crush nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism. 

In reaction to the op-ed, written by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, and titled "Send In the Troops," dozens of Times staffers began tweeting out the same message on Twitter Wednesday evening in an open show of anger and solidarity. The message, which contained a picture of the op-ed headline along with the caption "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger," has gone viral and been tweeted and retweeted by journalists and freelancers at other publications as well.  

Since the Cotton op-ed dropped earlier in the day, the Times has been subject to a storm of criticism. As anger continue to grow, internally as well as externally, James Bennet, the editor of the Times opinion pages, took to Twitter to explain why the piece was published. “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.’ We’ve also crusaded for years against the underlying, systemic cruelties that led to these protests,” Bennet wrote.

He added: “As part of our explorations of these issues, Times Opinion has published powerful arguments supporting protests, advocating fundamental change and criticizing 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.”

Later on Wednesday, the Newsguild of New York, a union for the Times and other New York-based publications, tweeted a blistering statement about Cotton's essay that staffers at the paper will be sending letters to senior management. The statement says that the op-ed "undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence. Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people. It also jeopardizes our journalists' ability to work in the field safely and effectively." 

The statement excoriates the opinion section's reasoning for publishing the essay, described it as "irresponsible." "Its lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and timing of its call to arms gravely undermine the work we do." 

The statement concludes: "This is a particularly vulnerable moment in American history. Cotton's op-ed pours gasoline on the fire. Media organizations have a responsibility to hold power to account, not amplify voices of power without context and caution."

On Thursday evening, Times released a statement saying Cotton’s essay is under review. "This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish," a Times spokeswoman said in a statement.

June 4, 5:36 p.m. Updated with Times statement.

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