Staffer Outrage, Sickout Spurred by NYT Publication of Sen. Cotton ‘Send in the Troops’ Op-Ed

Scott Beale / Flickr new york times building...
Scott Beale / Flickr

The New York Times‘s Wednesday publication of Sen. Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for the U.S. military to respond to ongoing protests across the nation with an “overwhelming show of force” sparked outcry from the newspaper’s own staffers and a “sickout” protest Thursday.

Among the staff critics was 2020 Pulitzer Prizer winner Nikole Hannah-Jones. “I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but to not say something would be immoral,” she tweeted Wednesday. “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.”

“As a NYT writer I absolutely stand in opposition to that Tom Cotton ‘editorial,'” tweeted Roxane Gay. “We are well served by robust and ideologically diverse public discourse that includes radical, liberal, and conservative voices.” But, she continued, “This is not that. His piece was inflammatory and endorsing military occupation as if the constitution doesn’t exist.”

A number of other Times staffers, some putting their jobs at risk, responded to the publication on Twitter with a screenshot of the “Send in the Troops” op-ed and the words: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”

Editorial page editor James Bennet sought to justify the publication, issuing a series of tweets Wednesday, saying, in part, “Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy.” But that explanation has done little to quell the outrage.

The decision to publish the op-ed—even as journalists covering the ongoing protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd have already been attacked by police forces—has also spurred a sickout.

Over two dozen Times employees who work in technology are taking part in the protest. The group includes Minerva Archer, who explained the decision in a Thursday Twitter thread, writing that “today I feel it’s important for me to say that I’m ashamed the content management system I help build was used to publish a credulous and poorly fact-checked piece advocating for military violence against American citizens.”

In a Wednesday night statement, the newspaper’s union responded to the Cotton op-ed, saying it “pours gasoline on the fire,” and called the Times’s decision to publish it an “irresponsible choice.”

Cotton’s “message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts out Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence,” said the statement. “Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people. It also jeopardizes our journalists’ ability to work in the field safety and effectively.”

The op-ed’s “lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and the timing of its call to arms gravely undermine the work we do every day,” the union said. “This rhetoric could inspire further use of force at protests—protests many of us and our colleagues are covering in person.”

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4 Comments on "Staffer Outrage, Sickout Spurred by NYT Publication of Sen. Cotton ‘Send in the Troops’ Op-Ed"

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Maybe this will work this time. People appear to be committed to an appropriate resolution.

Alfred Higgins
Alfred Higgins

But publishing Cotton’s op-ed reveals, with no ambiguity, the cynical Trump/Republican agenda of authoritarian control of power, and their insidious program of ethnic cleansing by COVID-19.

I read Cotton’s op-ed. Don’t waste your time. It’s difficult for me to believe that a sitting Senator would call for military violence against our own people. What are we? China or North Korea? Wonder if Cotton had a huge smile on his face when he saw the video of the Buffalo police shoving that old man down & fracturing his skull. Thank God the man is alert & talking. I don’t know about the rest of you but assaulting senior citizens does not make me feel safer. This is a frightening time but we need to get our law… Read more »
Dick Panico
Dick Panico

The war monger “COTTON MOUTH“ , wanting to use America’s military against peaceful demonstrators.
That’s what he learned as a member of our military?
This is what he learned working, for
TRUMP and his family, who are
MILITARY SLACKERS . Great , well named
As he reneged on his duty to follow the
constitution and protect Americans,
and follow Trump and his Military
DRAFT DODGERIng family !
And his daughter who’s agreed to serving Israel’s
military , but not in America’s.
——————GREAT ———-