Executives at The New York Times scrambled on Thursday to address the concerns of employees and readers who were angered by the newspaper’s publication of an opinion essay by a United States senator calling for the federal government to send the military to suppress protests against police violence in American cities.
Near the end of the day, James Bennet, the editor in charge of the opinion section, said in a meeting with staff members that he had not read the essay before it was published. Shortly afterward, The Times issued a statement saying the essay fell short of the newspaper’s standards.
“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication,” Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish.”
The Op-Ed, posted on the Times website Wednesday, carried the headline “Send In the Troops.” It was written by Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas. “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” the senator wrote.
Hundreds of staff members signed a letter protesting its publication, according to a union member involved in the letter. The letter, addressed to high-ranking editors in the opinion and news divisions, as well as New York Times Company executives, argued that Mr. Cotton’s essay contained misinformation, such as the claim that the antifa movement had “infiltrated” the protests.
Dozens of Times employees objected to the essay on social media, despite a company policy that instructs them not to post partisan comments or take sides on issues of the day. Many of them responded on Twitter with the sentence, “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
Conversation and debate filled videoconference meetings for many newsroom departments on Thursday. The newspaper scheduled a town-hall meeting for Friday to allow employees to express their concerns to company leaders, including A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher; Dean Baquet, the executive editor; and Mr. Bennet, the editorial page editor.
Mr. Bennet said in a meeting that was attended by Mr. Sulzberger late on Thursday that he had not read Mr. Cotton’s essay before it was published, according to two people who were in attendance.
Mr. Sulzberger had sent an email to the staff on Thursday morning, backing the column’s publication.
“I believe in the principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with, and this piece was published in that spirit,” he wrote. “But it’s essential that we listen to and reflect on the concerns we’re hearing, as we would with any piece that is the subject of significant criticism. I will do so with an open mind.”
He added, “We don’t publish just any argument — they need to be accurate, good faith explorations of the issues of the day.”
Through a Times spokeswoman, Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Bennet declined requests for interviews.