Former New York Times Editor Slams Paper, Publisher For Departure Over Tom Cotton Op-Ed

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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  • A former New York Times editor who resigned in 2020 for publishing an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is speaking out against the paper and its publisher, A.G. Sulzberger.
  • James Bennett claims that the paper had commissioned the op-ed and had Sulzberger’s support, but backtracked quickly after criticism from Times employees and on Twitter.
  • “The real action was in the Times’s Slack channels, where reporters and other staff began not just venting but organizing,” Bennett wrote.

The former editor of the New York Times editorial page criticized the paper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and the paper’s editorial leadership on Thursday for his departure over the publishing of an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas in 2020.

James Bennett resigned from the Times in 2020 after the paper published an op-ed column by Cotton titled “Send In the Troops,” where he argued that the Trump administration should deploy U.S. military personnel to quell rioting that followed the death of George Floyd. The op-ed attracted criticism, and an editor’s note was affixed to the piece, though Bennett wrote in The Economist that Times leaders had commissioned the op-ed knowing its contents and that its reaction to criticism contradicted Sulzberger’s previous overtures about accommodating conservative opinions. (RELATED: ‘It Far Exceeds Their Standards’: Tom Cotton Criticizes NYT For Apologizing ‘In The Face Of The Woke Mob Of Woke Kids’ Over His Op-Ed)

“The publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who was about two years into the job, understood why we’d published the op-ed … [H]e’d emailed me that afternoon, saying: ‘I get and support the reason for including the piece,’  because, he thought, Cotton’s view had the support of the White House as well as a majority of the Senate,” Bennett wrote. “Less than three days later, on Saturday morning, Sulzberger called me at home and, with an icy anger that still puzzles and saddens me, demanded my resignation.”

Sulzberger had previously told Bennett that he wanted more conservative voices to join the paper, according to the article.

‘Too many liberals,’ read my notes about the Opinion line-up from a meeting I had with him,” Bennett wrote.

Bennett revealed that the Times had contacted Cotton and specifically asked him to write about the call for military troops to quell the riots following his tweet calling on then-President Donald Trump to do so.

“Cotton had a lot of influence with the White House, [then-Executive Editor Dean] Baquet noted, and he could well be making his argument directly to the president, Donald Trump. Readers should know about it,” Bennett wrote.

“At one point, in answer to a question, Sulzberger and Baquet both said they thought the op-ed – as the Times union and many journalists were saying – had, in fact, put journalists in danger,” Bennett wrote. “That was the first time I realized I might be coming to the end of the road.”

Bennett argued that there was a double standard involved in the Times’ response to the criticism of the op-ed, with a bias towards left-wing views.

“The Times’s problem has metastasized from liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favor one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut debate down altogether,” he wrote.

“I could not disagree more strongly with the false narrative he has constructed about The Times,” Sulzberger told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Today we have a far more diverse mix of opinions, including more conservative and heterodox voices, than ever before.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from A.G. Sulzberger.

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