The New York Times has admitted a controversial opinion piece, which called for US President Donald Trump to “send in the troops” amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, did not meet its editorial standards.
In a statement released on Thursday, the paper blamed a “rushed editorial process” for its publication on Wednesday, which sparked anger from its own readers and staff.
“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication,” a spokeswoman for the paper said. “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 essay, written by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, called on Mr Trump to invoke America’s Insurrection Act,allowing him to deploy military troops across to cities across the US and “restore order”.
“These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives,” the senator wrote.
“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter law-breakers.”
Mr Cotton also described the protests as “carnivals for the thrillseeking rich”, and an “orgy of violence” that had nothing to do with the killing of Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, but “nihilist criminals” who were “simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction”.
Several of the Times’ own writers and contributors denounced the article on social media, saying it could put black reporters in danger.
“If electeds want to make provocative arguments, let them withstand the questions and context of a news story, not unvarnished and unchecked,” Astead Herndon, the paper’s national politics reporter, said.
But James Bennet, the editor in charge of the paper’s opinion section, initially defended the op-ed as a “counterargument” worthy of “scrutiny and debate”.
“Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counterarguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he said on Twitter.
“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous. We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.”
In another lengthy personal response to the criticism, he wrote: “It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.”
However, Mr Bennet later told staff in a meeting that he had not read the piece before it was published.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the article was now “under review”.
RELATED: Twitter disables Trump’s Floyd video
RALLIES TURN TO MEMORIALS
The reversal came amid much calmer protests on Thursday, with marches turning into sombre memorials for Floyd.
Protesters said the quieter mood was the result of several factors: the new and upgraded criminal charges against the police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest; a more conciliatory approach by police who have marched with them or taken a knee to recognise their message; and the realisation that the burst of rage after Floyd’s death is not sustainable.
“Personally, I think you can’t riot everyday for almost a week,” said Costa Smith, 26, who was protesting in downtown Atlanta.
But many protesters have shown no sign that they are going away and, if anything, say they are emboldened to stay on the streets to push for police reforms.
In New York City, Miguel Fernandes said there were “a lot more nights to go” of marching because they still hadn’t got what they wanted.
Floyd’s brother Terrence also appeared in Brooklyn to carry on the fight for change, declaring “power to the people, all of us”
At a memorial in Minneapolis, family members, celebrities, politicians and civil rights advocates called for meaningful changes to policing and the criminal justice system.
Mourners stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time Floyd was alleged to be on the ground under the knee of a white police officer before he died.
Floyd’s golden casket was covered in red roses, and an image was projected above the pulpit, which read: “I can breathe now.”
RELATED: World shocked by brutal video
Meanwhile in Buffalo, a police commissioner suspended two officers after video showed a 75-year-old man being shoved after walking up to police as they were enforcing a curfew.
The man appeared to hit his head on the pavement, with blood leaking out of his ear, as officers walked past.
The man was later hospitalised and is now in a stable but serious condition.
Police initially said a man was injured after tripping and falling. But after viewing the video, Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood ordered an investigation.
“I was deeply disturbed by the video,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement. “After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening.”
– With wires