New York Times opinion editor James Bennet on Sunday announced that he has resigned, effectively immediately, following an internal revolt over Republican Sen. Tom Cotton’s “Send in the Troops” column published last week.
The newspaper announced that Katie Kingsbury will step in as an interim opinion page editor through the election; and that Bennet’s deputy editor Jim Dao is being reassigned back to the newsroom.
In a statement, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said: “James is a journalist of enormous talent and integrity who believes deeply in the mission of The Times. He oversaw a significant transformation of the Opinion department, which broadened the range of voices we publish and pushed us into new formats like video, graphics and audio. I’m grateful for his many contributions.”
Bennet came under intense scrutiny late last week after publishing a column from pro-Trump Sen. Cotton calling upon President Donald Trump to send in the military as a response to nationwide protests against police brutality.
The Wednesday afternoon column, which Bennet did not read before its publication, caused an open revolt at the paper as dozens of employees from across various departments all tweeted its headline along with the caption: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
Bennet initially defended the decision to run the opinion piece, but on Friday, during a tense company-wide meeting, he and the paper’s bosses issued a mea culpa, lamenting that he allowed the opinion page to be “stampeded by the news cycle,” and that it would be necessary to rethink the section altogether. He additionally admitted that the Times did “invite” Cotton to submit the piece.
“I just want to begin by saying I’m very sorry, I’m sorry for the pain that this particular piece has caused,” Bennet said. “I do think this is a moment for me and for us to interrogate everything we do in opinion.”
Bennet also took several questions from the paper’s staff, including why he did not personally read Cotton’s column before it was published. That failure, Bennet said, was “another part of the process that broke down.” He added: “I should have been involved in signing off on the piece... I should have read it and signed off.”
In a memo sent to staff following news of Bennet’s departure, Sulzberger emphasized that “None of these changes mark a retreat from The Times’s responsibility to help people understand a range of voices across the breadth of public debate. That role is as important as it’s ever been.”
He added: “Because we have faced questions in recent days about our core values, I want to say this plainly: As an institution we are opposed to racism in every corner of society. We are opposed to injustice. We believe deeply in principles of fairness, equality and human rights. Those values animate both our news report and our opinion report.”