New York Times staff members have criticized the paper for publishing an opinion piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton that called on US President Donald Trump to “send in the troops” to “restore order” and put down ongoing nationwide protests.
The killing of George Floyd, an African American man who died last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, sparked nine days of protests against racism and police brutality across the US. While the protests began peacefully and many remained nonviolent, attracting international support, looting and violent clashes with police have also occurred in major cities across the US.
On Wednesday, Senator Cotton wrote that the Trump Administration should respond to the protests by sending in the military to halt what he called an “orgy of violence.”
The nation must restore order. The military stands ready. https://t.co/SW68y6wvds— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) June 3, 2020
“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” wrote Cotton, sparking a divided response.
While his piece was retweeted by President Trump, who himself has threatened to use the Insurrection Act to send in the military, it also provoked a wave of criticism – including from staff at the New York Times, where the op-ed was published.
“Running this put Black @nytimes staffers in danger,” tweeted several prominent New York Times staff members and former employees including Sandra E. Garcia and Caity Weaver.
Critics have argued that a military response would be disproportionate and would lead to a further cycle of violence, with police already accused of firing tear gas at dangerously short distances and deliberately targeting journalists. Even within the Trump Administration, opinion appears to be split, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper saying on Wednesday that soldiers “should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”
“I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral. As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this,” tweeted Nikole Hannah-Jones.
I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral. As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this. https://t.co/lU1KmhH2zH— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 4, 2020
The New York Times responded to the criticism through James Bennett, its editorial page editor, who said that the paper had published several pro-protest pieces and owed it to its readers to show both sides of the argument.
“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,” he wrote.
I want to explain why we published the piece today by Senator Tom Cotton. https://t.co/GvWwf7i0Wu— James Bennet (@JBennet) June 3, 2020