The New York Times’ editorial page editor James Bennet has resigned over the controversial Sen. Tom Cotton op-ed that caused outrage among many staffers and readers.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Dao is also stepping off the masthead and being reassigned to the newsroom, while Katie Kingsbury, who joined The Times in 2017, has been named as acting editorial page editor through the November election.
The Times revealed the changes Sunday, five days after the op-ed titled “Send in the Troops,” was published online calling for the deployment of the American military to quash nationwide protests over the police killings of George Floyd and others, as well as centuries of systemic racism.
In a note to staffers, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger explained, “Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years. James and I agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.”
At the time of the op-ed’s publication, many Times staffers took to Twitter to express their dismay, with the words: “Running this puts black @NYTimes staff in danger” and more than 800 signed a petition.
The publication originally defended the op-ed, but late Thursday said it did not meet its editorial standards.
“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication,” it 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.”
As a result, senior management held an apologetic town hall Friday where Bennet, who did not read the op-ed before publication, apologized to staffers and said it would not be printed in the Sunday newspaper as previously planned.
The op-ed is still online, but a lengthy editor’s note was added Friday. Part of it reads: “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.”
Bennet, who has been in the position since May 2016, was previously viewed as a potential successor to executive editor Dean Baquet.
In his statement issued Sunday, he said, “The journalism of Times Opinion has never mattered more than in this time of crisis at home and around the world, and I’ve been honored to be part of it. I’m so proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to focus attention on injustice and threats to freedom and to enrich debate about the right path forward by bringing new voices and ideas to Times readers.”
Sulzberger added, “James is a journalist of enormous talent and integrity who believes deeply in the mission of The Times. He oversaw a significant transformation of the Opinion department, which broadened the range of voices we publish and pushed us into new formats like video, graphics and audio. I’m grateful for his many contributions.”