“New York Times staff still red hot over Tom Cotton op-ed”
June 5, 2020 | 9:52pm
The New York Times building in Midtown Manhattan.
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
More than 300 non-editorial staffers staged a virtual walkout by calling in sick while hundreds of journalists tuned in to a virtual town hall with angry questions for publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Dean Baquet and editorial page editor James Bennet.
The senior editors struck a conciliatory tone during the Friday morning meeting but failed to pacify journalists who claimed the essay, by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), put the paper’s black staffers’ lives in danger.
Sulzberger called the senator’s op-ed — titled “Tom Cotton: Send in the Troops” — “inflammatory,” while Bennet apologized profusely for running the piece after defending it a day earlier, sources said.
That didn’t stop one staffer from asking Sulzberger, “Why does James Bennet still have a job,” said one insider. Sulzberger “did not give a very strong answer,” this person added.
Staffers first revolted against the op-ed after it ran on Wednesday, prompting Bennet to come to its defense — both in the paper and on Twitter.
“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he wrote.
Sulzberger backed Bennet, saying in a staff email Thursday: “We don’t publish just any argument — they need to be accurate, good faith explorations of the issues of the day.”
By Thursday night, the paper was throwing the op-ed under the bus, saying Bennet had not read it before it was published.
Sources said that Cotton interfaced with a 25-year-old Times staffer he’s worked with in the past and that the essay was ultimately approved by a “masthead editor.”
Cotton on Friday disputed the Times’ assertion that the piece wasn’t up to snuff.
“Only ‘standard’ this failed to meet was that opinion pieces must not anger the woke mob,” he tweeted.
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