NYT Opinion Editor Resigns following Cotton Op-Ed Fallout

The New York Times building, March 15, 2020 (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The editor of the New York Times opinion pages resigned following a staff revolt over the publishing of Senator Tom Cotton’s (R., Ark.) op-ed calling for President Trump to use the military to put down riots in the nation’s major cities.

A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher, said in a Sunday note to staff that James Bennet had resigned and his deputy, James Dao, was being reassigned to the news division at the paper. “Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” Sulzberger explained. He said in an interview that “both of us concluded that James would not be able to lead the team through the next leg of change that is required.”

Sulzberger said at a virtual staff town hall on Friday that Cotton’s op-ed was “contemptuous” in tone and “should not have been published.” The Times later posted an editor’s note to Cotton’s op-ed — which called for President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to use the military to quell riots — explaining that his argument “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.”

Dao tweeted Saturday night that he “oversaw the acceptance and review of the Cotton Op-Ed,” after a Times article reported that Cotton’s piece was edited by Adam Rubenstein, a staff editor in opinion.

Cotton responded to news of Bennet’s departure by saying the Times had mischaracterized his piece. “I called for using military force as a backup — only if police are overwhelmed — to stop riots, not to be used against protesters,” he tweeted.

Cotton’s office told National Review that the Times editors told Cotton they were interested in a piece about the Insurrection Act, and that the editing process was “rigorous and somewhat onerous” — matching the experience of past op-eds Cotton has published in the paper.

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