The New York Times’ decision to run an op-ed from the Republican senator Tom Cotton titled “Send in the troops” is drawing widespread criticism, including from Times staff.
In the piece, Cotton called for the use of US military troops to quell civil unrest, and indicated the president would be justified in doing so under the Insurrection Act of 1807.
“It’s past time to support local law enforcement with federal authority,” he wrote on Wednesday.
“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers. But local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup, while delusional politicians in other cities refuse to do what’s necessary to uphold the rule of law.”
Donald Trump, who has called for law and order and encouraged police to use force to quell protests and unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the custody of Minneapolis police, retweeted Cotton’s op-ed later in the day.
Numerous New York Times employees, however, tweeted that “Running this put Black @nytimes staffers in danger” along with screenshots of Cotton’s piece.
Former staff members also weighed in, including former New York Times editor and current Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan, the former editorial director of NYT Global, Lydia Polgreen, now head of content at Gimlet Media, and the former Times reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who writes about racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine and was the creator of the Pulitzer-winning 1619 Project, said that she was “ashamed” of the paper’s decision to publish.
“I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral. As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this,” she tweeted.
James Bennett, the editorial page editor at The New York Times, responded to the backlash by posting an explanation on the Times’ decision to run Cotton’s piece:
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
“No and no and no – you’ve made one too many bad decisions and clearly should not have run this,” answered the New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis.
“I’ve submitted non-fascist opinion pieces to the Times in the past but no luck so maybe this is just sour grapes,” wrote Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii.
It’s not the first time the paper has faced backlash over a controversial op-ed. Earlier this year readers and staff spoke out against a piece published by the columnist Bret Stephens that critics said embraced eugenics.