James Bennet has resigned from his post as editor of the New York Times’ editorial page following the controversy over an opinion column by Sen. Tom Cotton that said the military should be called in to handle the swell of protests around the country against police brutality. The resignation of Bennet, who has held the position since May 2016, is effective immediately. Jim Dao, the deputy editorial page editor, is being removed from the masthead and will be reassigned to the newsroom, according to a statement released by the Times. Katie Kingsbury, a deputy editorial page editor, has been named acting editorial page editor and will hold the position through the election in November.
In a note to staff, publisher A.G. Sulzberger said that the resignation came after “last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years.” That is why Sulzberger and Bennet “agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.” Sulzberger recognized it had been a “painful week across the company,” but he also struck an optimistic note, writing that “it has sparked urgent and important conversations.”
Neither Sulzberger’s note to staff nor the official Times statement on the resignation mentions the Cotton op-ed titled “Send In the Troops.” The Times received lots of criticism after it published the piece online on Wednesday afternoon. That criticism also came from inside the building as more than 800 staff members signed a letter protesting the publication of the op-ed. Bennet, who told staff he had not read the op-ed before it was published, defended the decision to run the piece, as did Sulzberger, who characterized it as part of the paper’s commitment to represent “views from across the spectrum.” But after an internal review, a 317-word “editors’ note” was appended to the piece, noting that it “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.” Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement that the review “made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards.”
The announcement of Bennet’s resignation came hours after Cotton harshly criticized the Times for its claim that his opinion piece did not meet its standards. “The New York Times editorial page editor and owner defended it in public statements, but then they totally surrendered to a woke child mob from their own newsroom that apparently gets triggered if they’re presented with any opinion contrary to their own, as opposed to telling the woke children in their newsroom this is the workplace, not a social justice seminar on campus,” Cotton said on Fox News.
Cotton’s op-ed and the criticism it courted illustrates why many think the Arkansas Republican will take over President Donald Trump’s agenda once he leaves the White House, notes the Wall Street Journal. “Tom Cotton is indeed setting himself up to be the heir to Trumpism,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the Washington-based think tank Niskanen Center. “In some ways, I think his case to lead the Trump wing of the party after this era has only been strengthened by this past week.”
Shortly after news of Bennet’s resignation was made public, Trump put in his two cents with a tweet that characterized Cotton’s piece as “excellent” and called the New York Times “fake news.”