James Bennet, the editor of the New York Times editorial page, resigned Sunday amid outrage from employees and readers over publication of a piece written by Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton, Politico reported.
Cotton's piece, titled "Send in the Troops," advocated for President Donald Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and use military force to stop the riots causing severe damage in many U.S. cities. The Times was heavily criticized for amplifying what some believed was dangerous rhetoric.
"Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger," some NYT staffers tweeted after the column was published.
Bennet and publisher A.G. Sulzberger initially defended the publication of the piece, arguing that it is better to debate ideas openly rather than let them go unchallenged, as open debate is "far more likely to help society reach the right answers."
That defense did nothing to quiet the anger over Cotton's article, and Bennet's situation was worsened by the revelation that he hadn't even read the piece before it was published. Cotton had been invited by the Times to write the column, but now the paper says it doesn't meet its editorial standards. It remains online with an editor's note:
The basic arguments advanced by Senator Cotton — however objectionable people may find them — represent a newsworthy part of the current debate. But given the life-and-death importance of the topic, the senator's influential position and the gravity of the steps he advocates, the essay should have undergone the highest level of scrutiny. Instead, the editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved. While Senator Cotton and his staff cooperated fully in our editing process, the Op-Ed should have been subject to further substantial revisions — as is frequently the case with such essays — or rejected.
Jim Dao, the deputy editorial director who oversaw the editing of Cotton's piece, has been reassigned to the newsroom. Deputy editorial page director Katie Kingsbury will take over for Bennet from now through the 2020 election.
Going forward, the Times will publish fewer op-eds and devote more resources to fact-checking. Kingsbury said anyone who sees "any piece of Opinion journalism—including headlines or social posts or photos or you name it—that gives you the slightest pause, please call or text me immediately."