New York Times slammed for article headline ‘endangering’ black staff

The New York Times is facing widespread backlash – mostly from the paper’s own staff – over the decision to publish an opinion piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, which they say has put the publication’s black reporters in “danger”.

In the contentious piece, titled “ Send In The Troops , Mr Cotton calls on US President Donald Trump to invoke America’s Insurrection Act.

The Act would authorise the President to deploy the military and “restore order” to cities across the US where protests are taking place for the eighth day in a row.

Mr Cotton describes the protests as “carnivals for the thrillseeking rich”, and an “orgy of violence” which has nothing to do with the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, but “nihilist criminals” who are “simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction”.

“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 Trump – unsurprisingly – shared the article on Twitter, making his stance on the issue abundantly clear after threatening to deploy the military to locations where he thought local law enforcement weren’t doing enough to suppress the violence earlier this week.

But NY Times staffers are in an “open revolt” over the op-ed.

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“As if it weren’t already hard enough to be a black employee of The New York Times. Running this put Black @nytimes staff in danger,” magazine editor Jazmine Hughes tweeted.

“To be clear, this story endangers *all* black people, NYT staffers and not. But for this, this is a labour issue. This is our livelihood. This is embarrassing.”

“Running this put Black @nytimes staffers in danger. In solidarity with my colleagues who agree,” journalist Jenna Wortham wrote.

Times contributor and social commentator Roxane Gay said that while she supported a wide range of viewpoints in the opinion section, she didn’t think Mr Cotton’s op-ed was appropriate.

“As a NYT writer I absolutely stand in opposition to that Tom Cotton ‘editorial,’” she wrote in a series of tweets.

“We are well served by robust and ideologically diverse public discourse that includes radical, liberal and conservative voices.

“This is not that. His piece was inflammatory and endorsing military occupation as if the constitution doesn’t exist.”

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The paper then published a letter on its website from a reader who “strongly disagreed” with Mr Cotton’s article, and “disagree even more strongly with The New York Times’s giving Mr Cotton a platform to express his views”.

“His extremist rhetoric only serves to fan the flames of division and suppression,” they wrote.

“Not only was the decision to print his words wrong, the decision to do so on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing is beyond comprehension. Shame on you! Shame on you!”

Other readers called on Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, to explain the decision to publish the piece.

Bennet defended the call in a thread on Twitter, saying Times Opinion “has always published powerful arguments supporting protests, advocating fundamental change and criticising police issues”.

Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counterarguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy,” he wrote.

“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.”

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