After online fury and intense criticism from many New York Times staffers, the paper’s editorial page head has resigned in controversy after publishing an op-ed by a US senator who urged military force against protestors nationwide.
James Bennet – the editorial page editor since May 2016 – faced intense backlash after initially defending the column headlined “Send in The Military” by Republican US Senator Tom Cotton.
James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton that called for military force against protesters in American cities https://t.co/Tt6PwmowZv— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 7, 2020
The hardline op-ed – which Bennet initially defended as an example of the newspaper’s commitment to ideological diversity – was met with both internal and external outrage.
Cotton’s essay encouraged an “overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers” as anti-racism protests rage across the United States, sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a white officer detaining him knelt on his neck.
Some 800 Times staffers signed a petition in protest of its publication, as many of the paper’s employees tweeted: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
The company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, also initially defended the decision to issue the column but later said the essay fell short of NYT standards.
Bennet also admitted he had not read the column before its publication.
On Sunday, Sulzberger dubbed James “a journalist of enormous talent and integrity” in an NYT statement announcing the resignation.
The statement did not mention the op-ed controversy, but the paper quoted Sulzberger as saying in a note to staff that “last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years.”
“James and I agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.”
The paper named Katie Kingsbury, a Times staffer since 2017, the acting editorial page editor through the November election.