A senior editor at has resigned following the publication of a controversial opinion piece by a Republican senator, which sparked outrage among readers.
The op-ed written by Tom Cotton, junior senator for Arkansas, was titled Send in the Troops and called for the use of military forces to put an end to protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
In the days following the piece’s publication on June 3, there was a huge outcry from both the public and staff, with the backlash only growing when it was revealed that James Bennet – who had overseen the paper’s opinion pages since 2016 – had not read the piece before publication.
Cotton’s article dubbed protests, that in recent days have seen hundreds of thousands of people demanding justice for Floyd and for the many other black lives lost at the hands of police because of systemic racism, an ‘orgy of violence’.
The senator also claimed that the protests had been fuelled by ‘cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa’, while asserting that police officers ‘bore the brunt’ of any violence experienced during the demonstrations – claims later said had not been substantiated in a lengthy editor’s note.
On Sunday, June 7, the newspaper announced that Bennet had resigned ‘effective immediately’, but not before numerous current and former journalists criticised the decision to run the op-ed, with some saying it endangered black employees. In protest, some employees refused to come into work the day after the article was published.
In addition to Bennet’s resignation, this backlash caused the newspaper to add a note to the piece admitting it ‘fell short of our standards and should not have been published’, describing the editing process as ‘rushed and flawed’.
In response to the editor’s resignation, Donald Trump took to Twitter – again – to describe as ‘fake news!!!’, describing Cotton’s piece as ‘excellent’. ‘TRANSPARENCY!’, he continued, adding: ‘The State of Arkansas is very proud of Tom.’
Despite the president’s clear support for Cotton’s position, with the piece only backing Trump’s previous threat to use troops to put an end to unrest, Attorney General William Barr insisted over the weekend that Trump wasn’t demanding military intervention, as per .
In the wake of Cotton’s piece and the backlash it caused, announced several changes, including expanding its fact-checking operation and reducing the number of op-eds written by non-staff members.
The paper’s statement also confirmed that Jim Dao – who oversees op-eds as a deputy in the opinion section – had been reassigned to the newsroom, while Kathleen Kingsbury – a Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing – will take over Bennet’s role until the November presidential election at least.