Staffers at The New York Times expressed dismay Wednesday over the newspaper’s decision to publish an op-ed written by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that called for the U.S. military to be deployed in cities across the country to help restore order.
The op-ed was published in The Times opinion section, but staffers from both opinion and the newsroom — which operate separate from one another — publicly dissented.
A parade of Times journalists tweeted a screen shot showing the headline of Cotton’s piece, “Send In the Troops,” with the accompanying words: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
New York Times Magazine staff writers Jenna Wortham and Taffy Brodesser-Akner and the paper’s senior editor Kwame Opam were among the journalists who did that. National political reporter Astead W. Herndon tweeted his support for his “colleagues, and particularly the black ones.”
A spokesperson for The Times did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Amid the Twitter outrage, however, editorial page editor James Bennet posted a series of tweets on Wednesday evening to explain his decision to run the op-ed. He cited a number of previous pieces in which the editorial board and other opinion writers defended the protests and “crusaded for years against the underlying, systemic cruelties that led to these protests.”
But, he said, “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,” Bennet concluded. “We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”
Cotton’s op-ed argued that “local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup” and that the military “stands ready” to help.
The op-ed suggested the Insurrection Act be invoked, arguing that deploying the U.S. military into American cities “doesn’t amount to ‘martial law.’”
Throughout the day, Times staffers publicly revolted over the piece.
“I feel compelled to say that I disagree with every word in that Tom Cotton op-ed and it does not reflect my values,” tweeted Charlie Warzel, a writer for The Times’ opinion section.
“Christ,” tweeted tech reporter Mike Isaac.
“Exactly,” replied tech reporter Cecilia Kang.
Stacy Cowley, a business reporter, tweeted that the piece had “led to a LOT” of discussion on Slack, an instant messaging application that companies use to allow their employees to communicate.
Davey Alba, a tech reporter, wrote on Twitter that Cotton’s argument that members of Antifa were “infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes” had been debunked by the paper
“Our own newspaper has reported that this is misinformation,” Alba tweeted.
A spokesperson for Cotton’s office declined to comment and referred CNN back to The Times.
Wednesday’s publication of Cotton’s op-ed isn’t the first time that the Times’ opinion section has generated criticism.
Bennet’s tenure has been marked by a series of high-profile blunders.
The Times’ opinion section was left reeling in September after it fumbled a story about an allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The opinion vertical faced heat last summer for the actions of columnist Bret Stephens.
And last April, the opinion section apologized after publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition.