Opinion Editor James Bennet is out at the New York Times, resigning after the backlash to Sen. Tom Cotton's column calling for a military crackdown on Americans protesting* police brutality.
Mr. Bennet’s swift fall from one of the most powerful positions in American journalism comes as hundreds of thousands of people have marched in recent weeks in protest of racism in law enforcement and society. The protests were set in motion when George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, died last month after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee.
The foment has reached other newsrooms. On Saturday night, Stan Wischnowski resigned as top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer days after an article in the newspaper about the effects of protests on the urban landscape carried the headline “Buildings Matter, Too.” The headline prompted an apology published in The Inquirer, a heated staff meeting and a “sickout” by dozens of journalists at the paper.
The fascist politics of Cotton's column were revolting and inappropriate for promotion by the Times, but Bennet's resignation can be overthought. He jumped on Twitter to lecture readers about appreciating "counter-arguments" and "public scrutiny", but it turned out he hadn't even read it himself before it was published. Performing this level of sanctimonious incompetence in public would be humiliating even if the column were about Spongebob Squarepants.
* UPDATE: Cotton's press secretary writes to stress that the senator only wants military force used on those "rioting and looting."
In the op-ed, Senator Cotton explicitly says that peaceful protestors are distinct from those rioting and looting. He suggested using the military to back up overwhelmed police as a last resort for those looting and burning down buildings—not using force against protestors. As you can imagine, that’s a very important distinction for us, and one that’s being lost in a lot of coverage.
‘My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.’
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