Times Opinion Editor Defends Publishing Tom Cotton’s ‘Send In the Troops’ Op-Ed

“Country Braces for a 9th Straight Night of Unrest,” went the headline at the top of the New York Times home page Wednesday evening. Lower down, on the right-hand side, the usual spot for opinion articles, was the headline for an essay by a United States senator that had stirred opposition outside and inside the paper: “Send In the Troops.”

The Op-Ed, written by Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, argued for the federal government to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would enable it to call up the military to put down protests in cities across the country.

“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” Mr. Cotton wrote.

The Times has reported on the debate within the administration over whether or not to follow this course of action.

Mr. Bennet was the editor in chief of The Atlantic before he became the head of the opinion department in 2016. The opinion section is run separately from the news side. Mr. Bennet reports to the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, as does the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, who is in charge of news coverage. The distinction between opinion pieces and news articles is sometimes lost on readers, who may see an Op-Ed — promoted on the same home page — as just another Times article.

The NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents many Times journalists, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Op-Ed “promotes hate.” “This is a particularly vulnerable moment in American history,” the statement said. “Cotton’s Op-Ed pours gasoline on the fire. Media organizations have a responsibility to hold power to account, not amplify voices of power without context and caution.”

Several members of the Times opinion staff, whom the paper allows more leeway on social media, also weighed in. Charlie Warzel, an opinion writer, tweeted, “i disagree with every word in that Tom Cotton op-ed and it does not reflect my values.”

Three Times journalists, who declined to be identified by name, said they had informed their editors that sources told them they would no longer provide them with information because of the Op-Ed.

Roxane Gay, an opinion contributor who is also an advice columnist for the Business section, tweeted her opposition, saying that while she supported the publishing of a range of opinions, the Op-Ed “was inflammatory and endorsing military occupation as if the constitution doesn’t exist.”

Kara Brown, a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, tweeted that she had turned down an assignment from The Times because of the Op-Ed. In an interview, she said the assignment would have been to profile the rapper Noname for the Styles section.

In his tweets on Wednesday, Mr. Bennet noted that the opinion department had published several essays in support of the protests.

Edmund Lee contributed reporting.

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