New York Times, Journalists Freak Out over Tom Cotton Op-ed Calling for Military to Restore Order

New York Times (Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty)
Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty

The New York Times faced a public backlash from its own newsroom on Wednesday after the paper published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) calling for the military to be used to quell nationwide rioting if necessary.

Cotton, a Harvard Law School graduate and U.S. Army infantry veteran with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, called for the president to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to calm America’s cities, noting that past presidents had done so. He noted that the military had been used in the past “to disperse mobs that prevented school desegregation,” among other purposes.

He wrote:

[T]he rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.

These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives. Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further.

One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers. But local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup, while delusional politicians in other cities refuse to do what’s necessary to uphold the rule of law.

Readers were outraged — and reporters were, too, with some even claiming that Cotton’s op-ed had put black journalists in physical danger (because the U.S. armed forces would, they suggested, attack black demonstrators).

The News Guild of New York, representing journalists at several publications in the New York area, claimed in a statement that Cotton “undermines the journalistic work of our members,” and that “invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people.” Despite the value of “diverse voices,” the guild claimed, the Times had a duty not to “amplify voices of power without context and caution.”

The controversy became a news article in the Times, “Senator’s ‘Send In the Troops’ Op-Ed in The Times Draws Online Ire.” The paper’s opinion editor, James Bennet, published a Twitter thread explaining to readers why the Times had published Cotton’s piece:

Last year, Times executive editor revealed privately to staff that the paper intended to shift its news coverage from the “Russia collusion” issue — which had proved to be nothing more than a conspiracy theory — to the issue of race.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.