NY Times Union Condemns Paper for Publishing Tom Cotton Op-Ed Urging Military to Crush Protests

Article poses “a clear threat to the health and safety of journalists we represent,” guild says

Last Updated: June 4, 2020 @ 8:42 AM

Calling it “a clear threat to the health and safety of journalists we represent,” the New York Times union harshly criticized the paper’s decision to publish an opinion piece that urged the U.S. military to crush the George Floyd protests.

The piece by right-wing Republican Senator Tom Cotton, titled “Send in the Troops,” calls for an “overwhelming show of force” to be deployed against protesters, among other violent rhetoric. Critics also noted that it contained falsehoods that the paper’s own reporting has already debunked.

But the Op-Ed also comes amid a sharp rise in violence committed by law enforcement against journalists that has been repeatedly documented in protests over the last two weeks — violence the New York Times union said could be worsened by Cotton’s piece.

“Cotton calls to mobilize the military to ‘detain’ and ‘subdue’ Americans protesting racism and police brutality,” the News Guild of New York statement said in part. “His message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence. Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people. It also jeopardizes our journalists’ ability to work in the field safely and effectively.”

The union said that covering events such as the George Floyd protests requires reporters to rely on “values the paper has long espoused: a commitment to a balanced and factual report and a promise to readers that we will bring them the unbiased news.” However, the guild said Cotton’s article was an “irresponsible choice” due to “Its lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and the timing.”

“This rhetoric could inspire further use of force at protests — protests many of us and our colleagues are covering in person,” the guild continued, adding that “media organizations have a responsibility to hold power to account, not amplify voices of power without context and caution.”

The statement comes after what amounted to an open revolt by New York Times staffers, who objected to the article and flouted the paper’s rules against social media use to make their concerns known. This included Times magazine editor Jazmine Hughes, writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner, reporter Taylor Lorenz, and Op-Ed contributors Roxane Gay and Jamelle Bouie, among many others.

The outcry prompted editorial page director James Bennet to attempt in a series of tweets to explain the decision to publish Cotton’s screed; in essence, he said that because the paper has published coverage that criticizes the use of violence against citizens, it was obligated to publish an opposing viewpoint. This justification did little to quell the paper’s critics, which now include the newsroom union.

Representatives for the Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

See the complete NY Times union statement below:

“We are deeply concerned about the publication today of an Op-Ed piece from Senator Tom Cotton under the headline ‘Send in the Troops

Cotton calls to mobilize the military to ‘detain’ and ‘subdue’ Americans protesting racism and police brutality. His message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence. Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people. It also jeopardizes our journalists’ ability to work in the field safely and effectively.

Our ability to cover this moment of history depends on values the paper has long espoused: a commitment to a balanced and factual report and a promise to readers that we will bring them the unbiased news. Though we understand the Op-Ed desk’s responsibility to publish a diverse array of opinions, we find the publication of this essay to be an irresponsible choice. Its lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and the timing of its call to arms gravely undermine the work we do every day. This rhetoric could inspire further use of force at protests — protests many of us and our colleagues are covering in person.

This is a particularly vulnerable moment in American history. 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.”

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