The New York Times Opinion editor resigned on Sunday less than a week after he allowed his section to publish an editorial in which its author, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, urged the President to sic the military on Black Lives Matter protesters nationwide.
The op-ed, titled “Send in the Troops,” was met with immediate criticism from readers and other Times staffers alike—not surprising, considering how the piece encourages the violent suppression of people protesting in favor of Black life and, transitively, Black people themselves. A number of Times journalists and other media workers condemned Cotton’s editorial on Twitter, amplifying variations of the phrase, “Running this put Black @nytimes staff in danger.” (Full disclosure: I tweeted this, too.) Such public dissent was risky for staffers, as Jezebel’s Esther Wang noted last week, considering how the Times’ social media policy forbids them from publicly expressing partisan views or criticizing the paper beyond closed doors.
Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger initially defended the op-ed, citing the importance of providing “a diversity of perspectives,” which apparently includes Cotton’s perspective that the state should murder Black people. But by Sunday, it seems, he’d had some kind of change of heart—or, perhaps more realistically, realized that such a racist fuck-up was bad for business. Either way. the Times released a statement earlier today announcing that Opinion editor James Bennet—who admitted during a company-wide meeting on Friday that he had not read Cotton’s piece prior to publication—had resigned. The statement also said that the section’s deputy editor, Jim Dao, will be reassigned to the newsroom and that Katie Kingsbury will now serve as acting editorial page editor in Bennet’s absence.
“As an institution, we are opposed to racism in every corner of society,” said Sulzberger in an email to Times employees obtained by Vice staffer and former Deadspin reporter Laura Wagner. “We are opposed to injustice. We believe deeply in principles of fairness, equality, and human rights. Those values animate both our news report and our opinion report”
Here’s hoping his future actions live up to those words!