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NYT Union Condemns Colleague, Newspaper After Op-Ed Criticizes ‘1619 Project’

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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The New York Times Guild condemned one of its own colleagues and the newspaper Saturday in a now-deleted tweet after the individual wrote an op-ed criticizing the paper’s “1619 Project.”

Op-ed columnist Bret Stephens angered the paper’s union over his Friday article titled “The 1619 Chronicles.” The op-ed complimented parts of the project and its lead writer, Nikole Hannah-Jones, while also diving into multiple criticisms of it, such as the now-deleted assertion that 1619 is America’s “true founding.”

In response, the union slammed Stephens’ article and the newspaper with a grammatically incorrect tweet  – which declared that the article and decision to publish it “reeks.”

“It says a lot about an organization when it breaks it’s [sic] own rules and goes after one of it’s [sic] own,” the NYT guild tweeted. “The act, like the article, reeks.”

The guild wrote one day later that the comment “was tweeted in error” and had been deleted.

NYT Magazine’s editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein first addressed the op-ed’s apparent controversy within the newsroom by tweeting that they “disagree strongly with Bret’s column” but “welcome debate about the historical analysis The 1619 Project rigorously advances.”

“I’m proud of the fact that over the past year, the project has had such a profound impact on discussions about our history,” Silverstein wrote Saturday. “I’m even more proud of the way that @nhannahjones vision and clarity and strength have transformed how many millions of Americans understand their country. She’s a national treasure.”

“We stand behind this work entirely,” he added.

The NYT’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, weighed in after the union deleted its tweet Sunday evening, issuing a statement to employees. The statement came after Sulzberger received “a few questions” about Stephens’ op-ed wondering “whether it represents an institutional shift in” the paper’s “support for the project.”

“That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Sulzberger wrote according to Silverstein. “It is a journalistic triumph that changed the way millions of Americans understand our country, its history and its present.”

Sulzberger continued on to note that the “1619 Project” has “sparked a national conversation” and therefore it is “a natural subject for an opinion columnist to write about.”

“I believe strongly in the right of Opinion to produce a piece, even when — maybe even especially when — we don’t agree with it as an institution,” he wrote. ” Indeed I think our openness to hear such criticism is the clearest sign of our confidence in the work as we continue to push the important work of the 1619 Project forward.”

The NYT erupted into a civil war after publishing an op-ed from Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton in June. That opinion piece called for the U.S. military to be potentially deployed to “restore order” amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

NYT employees decried the piece and said that the publication put their black colleagues “in danger” by running it. (RELATED: NYT Writers Say NYT Put Their Black Colleagues ‘In Danger’ By Running Tom Cotton Op-Ed)

Sulzberger defended the paper’s decision to publish, but the publication later issued an apology and wrote that it “did not meet our standards.” Former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennett resigned following the incident.