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NYT editor resigns amid backlash over senator’s incendiary op-ed

James Bennet, the editor of the Op-Ed section of the New York Times has resigned because of intense backlash following the publication of Tom Cotton's incendiary article in the pages. This is not the first time that Tom Cotton finds himself in the limelight. Meanwhile, the United States burns as protests intensify.

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After online fury and intense criticism from many New York Times (NYT from hereon in) 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. The NYT editor resigns after coming under severe backlash from the public, as the newspaper allowed the publishing of an incendiary article in its Op-Ed section, penned by Senator Tom Cotton.

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.

NYT editor resigns: he initially defended the publication of article

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.

Read more: George Floyd’s murder: violent protests spread across the US

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.

NYT editor resigns: NYT endorses his integrity

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.”

Read more: Unrest over George Floyd murder wreaks havoc in US 

“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.

The New York Times initially defended the article, saying the editorial page needed to reflect diverse viewpoints. But in a lengthy editor’s note added to the text on Friday, it said the piece “fell short of our standards and should not have been published”.

It said “the editing process was rushed and flawed”, adding: “The published piece presents as facts assertions about the role of ‘cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa’; in fact, those allegations have not been substantiated and have been widely questioned.”

The newspaper also said the senator’s statement that police officers “bore the brunt” of the violence seen in some cities was an “overstatement that should have been challenged”. The headline, which had not been written by Mr Cotton, “was incendiary and should not have been used,” the note added.

Tom Cotton: a staunch advocate of military use

This is not the first time that US Republican Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas finds himself in the limelight. Earlier, he had urged the use of military force against protestors who took the streets across the US. The protests come after a black man was killed by the police. Protestors feel that strict punishment should be given to the officer that killed him. The US senator tweeted against the Floyd protests.

Read more: US senator tweets against Floyd protests; suggests bringing in military

“Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight,” Cotton said on Twitter. “If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let’s see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they’re facing off with the 101st Airborne Division.”

Antifa, short for “antifascist,” is a far-left anti-fascist political activist movement that became popular in the US following the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. It is composed of groups, networks and individuals who believe in aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements.

Watch Dr. Moeed Pirzada discuss the anarchy in the USA and analyze the future for the USA amid the protests:

 

Cotton later tweeted: “And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.”

In a separate tweet, he also called the ongoing protests a “domestic terrorism”.

“George Floyd deserves justice. And our First Amendment protects peaceful protests of his wrongful death,” he wrote. “But this violence isn’t protest: it’s domestic terrorism.”

Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, urged a similar action, saying “the lawlessness on the streets is not the answer” and he “fully supports the use of federal forces, if necessary, to restore order.”

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk