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The New York Times released a new statement in the form of an editor’s note in response to an op-ed written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that was published in the newspaper this week. The op-ed argued that the military should be deployed to stop the violent riots and looting that is ravaging inner cities across America.
The editor’s note came after leftist activists at The New York Times and throughout the media—along with far-left lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)—exploded in anger over Cotton’s op-ed, claiming without evidence that it put black lives at risk. Cotton made no reference to any racial demographic and instead argued that impoverished communities were the ones most likely to suffer from the lawlessness.
The New York Times initially defended its decision to publish the op-ed, but later caved after getting pounded by the online outrage mob.
In an editor’s note that was featured at the top of Cotton’s op-ed, The New York Times wrote:
After publication, this essay met strong criticism from many readers (and many Times colleagues), prompting editors to review the piece and the editing process. Based on that review, we have concluded that the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.
The basic arguments advanced by Senator Cotton — however objectionable people may find them — represent a newsworthy part of the current debate. But given the life-and-death importance of the topic, the senator’s influential position and the gravity of the steps he advocates, the essay should have undergone the highest level of scrutiny. Instead, the editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved. While Senator Cotton and his staff cooperated fully in our editing process, the Op-Ed should have been subject to further substantial revisions — as is frequently the case with such essays — or rejected.
For example, the published piece presents as facts assertions about the role of “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa”; in fact, those allegations have not been substantiated and have been widely questioned. Editors should have sought further corroboration of those assertions, or removed them from the piece. The assertion that police officers “bore the brunt” of the violence is an overstatement that should have been challenged. The essay also includes a reference to a “constitutional duty” that was intended as a paraphrase; it should not have been rendered as a quotation.
Beyond those factual questions, the tone of the essay in places is needlessly harsh and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate. Editors should have offered suggestions to address those problems. The headline — which was written by The Times, not Senator Cotton — was incendiary and should not have been used.
Finally, we failed to offer appropriate additional context — either in the text or the presentation — that could have helped readers place Senator Cotton’s views within a larger framework of debate.
The one legitimate criticism that The New York Times had was that the standard editorial process was not followed as the top opinion editor reportedly did not read it.
Aside from that, The New York Times’ editor’s note is weak as it fails to even note that 58% of Americans support deploying the military to stop the riots and 71% of Americans support deploying the National Guard to stop the riots.
This portion of The New York Times’ editor’s note is incorrect:
For example, the published piece presents as facts assertions about the role of “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa”; in fact, those allegations have not been substantiated and have been widely questioned.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Attorney General William Barr, and FBI Director Christopher Wray have all stated that Antifa is involved in the rioting.
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