Incendiary Tom Cotton Op-ed Exposes Major Leadership & Editorial Problems At The NY Times


By Dan Froomkin
Press Watch (6/4/20)

The New York Times’s decision on Wednesday to publish an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton — in which the Arkansas Republican called for the U.S. to “Send in the Troops” to forcibly subdue the “rioters” who he claimed have “plunged many American cities into anarchy” — has resulted in a remarkable public denunciation from readers and even the newspaper’s own staff members.

Dozens of Times staffers risked the ire of Times management by tweeting the singular message: “Running this puts black @nytimes staff in danger.”

The NewsGuild of New York, which represents many Times journalists, released a statement declaring, “This is a particularly vulnerable moment in American history. Cotton’s Op-Ed pours gasoline on the fire.”

The statement explained: “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.”

“…some ideas – like advocating the violent suppression of what would almost inevitably be mostly black and brown people — are so abhorrent, so unhinged, so dangerous and so consequential that it is irresponsible just to put them out there without contextualizing them, explaining them and fully refuting them.”

On Thursday evening, the Times capitulated — up to a point. Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement that “a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards.” The statement said the Times would expand its fact-checking operation and publish fewer pieces.

But that didn’t actually resolve a lot of the issues that the Cotton op-ed raised. What standards did it fail to meet? What are we to make of the two spirited defenses of the decision to publish it — from Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and editorial page editor James Bennet, no less? Are those no longer operative? What’s the lesson learned?

The lesson I hope the paper’s editors and management learned is that when the Times publishes op-eds, it is making a conscious choice to amplify them. It is putting the Times imprimatur on the authors and their views. And that can be a hugely consequential decision.

The publisher steps in it

Sulzberger, the publisher, initially defended the publication of the Cotton op-ed in a message to staff on Thursday, writing: “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. ”

But he also wrote: “We don’t publish just any argument — they need to be accurate, good faith explorations of the issues of the day.”

And that’s where I think he tripped himself up. Because by publishing the op-ed, the Times was vouching for its accuracy and its good faith, and was validating its topic as a legitimate topic worthy of serious debate.

The op-ed, in reality, was riddled with inaccuracies, conflations and conspiracy theories. And it was inflammatory to its core — hardly a subject of reasonable political discourse.

Times investigative reporter Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, using the Times’ss own ad slogan as a thematic device, posted a series of tweets that amounted to a devastating fact-check on Cotton’s piece. [Follow link below.]

Cotton wrote of “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.” Valentino-DeVries pointed out that the Times itself has reported that unsubstantiated theories about antifa are among the primary pieces of misinformation being spread about current protests and unrest.

Cotton wrote: “Outnumbered police officers, encumbered by feckless politicians, bore the brunt of the violence.” But as Valentino-DeVries noted, Times reporting has found the the brunt of the violence has been inflicted by police, not against them.

Rather than a reasoned argument, Cotton’s op-ed was a self-serving embrace of the kind of authoritarianism that used to be unthinkable in this country. …

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After His Bigoted Rants About Police Brutality Marches, Tucker Carlson Has Lost Major Advertisers

By Jason Campbell
Media Matters (6/11/20)

Over the past 48 hours, Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show lost four major advertisers: T-Mobile, SmileDirectClub, Disney and Papa John’s.

This recent advertising loss began on Tuesday when T-Mobile announced that it would no longer advertise on Carlson’s Fox News program. T-Mobile’s CEO Mike Sievert also weighed in, responding to a Twitter user who had asked if the company supported a program like Carlson’s by saying that “It definitely is not. Bye-bye Tucker Carlson! #BlackLivesMatter”

On Wednesday, SmileDirectClubDisney, and Papa John’s all confirmed they would likewise cease advertising on Carlson’s prime-time show. This is a major loss for Carlson and Fox News as a whole.

Carlson has a long history of regularly promoting white supremacist content on the airwaves. Over the past month, Carlson has used his show to spew racist rhetoric in the wake of protests following the police killing of George Floyd. …

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