Staffers at The New York Times are in open revolt Wednesday after the paper’s opinion section ran a column from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) calling upon President Donald Trump to “send in the troops” in response to nationwide protests against police brutality.
In a column titled “Tom Cotton: Send in the Troops,” the notoriously hawkish, pro-Trump senator called upon the president to mobilize the military to shut down protests across most major U.S. cities, despite the objections of both local officials and Trump’s own defense secretary.
In response, dozens of Times staffers began tweeting the same message, alongside an image of the headline: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
Among those tweeting in solidarity were a diverse swath of editorial and production staffers, including restaurant critics, art and graphics producers, travel, style and culture reporters, tech writers, and Times opinion writers like Roxane Gay.
“Surreal and horrifying to wake up on the morning of June 4 - the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown - to this headline,” wrote Times China correspondent Amy Qin.
The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in a Twitter thread, editorial page editor James Bennet explained the editorial decision: “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.’ We’ve also crusaded for years against the underlying, systemic cruelties that led to these protests.”
He continued: “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.”
In direct response to Bennet’s comments, Times film critic Manohla Dargis fired back: “No and no and no - you've made one too many bad decisions and clearly should not have run this.”
The paper’s decision to run Cotton’s column was met with widespread criticism from outside the outlet, including from the Times’ former op-ed and international news editor Sewell Chan, who wrote that “the decision to publish @SenTomCotton calling for troop deployments to quell unrest falls short of sound journalistic practice.”
“I’ve submitted non-fascist opinion pieces to the Times in the past but no luck so maybe this is just sour grapes,” wrote Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii.