NYT Op-Ed editor resigns over ‘breakdown in editing processes’
June 8, 2020 11:34 PM
James Bennet resigned on Sunday from his job as the editorial page editor of The New York Times, days after the newspaper’s opinion section, which he oversaw, published a much-criticized Op-Ed by a United States senator calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities.
“Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” said A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher, in a note to the staff on Sunday announcing Mr. Bennet’s departure.
In a brief interview, Mr. Sulzberger added: “Both of us concluded that James would not be able to lead the team through the next leg of change that is required.”
At an all-staff virtual meeting on Friday, Mr. Bennet, 54, apologized for the Op-Ed, saying that it should not have been published and that it had not been edited carefully enough. An editors’ note posted late Friday noted factual inaccuracies and a “needlessly harsh” tone. “The essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published,” the note said, according to a report published in The New York Times.
The Op-Ed, by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, had “Send In the Troops” as its headline. “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he wrote. The piece, published on Wednesday, drew anger from readers and Times journalists. Mr. Bennet declined to comment.
Mr. Bennet’s swift fall from one of the most powerful positions in American journalism comes as hundreds of thousands of people have marched in recent weeks in protest of racism in law enforcement and society. The protests were set in motion when George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, died last month after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee.
The foment has reached other newsrooms. On Saturday night, Stan Wischnowski resigned as top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer days after an article in the newspaper about the effects of protests on the urban landscape carried the headline “Buildings Matter, Too.” The headline prompted an apology published in The Inquirer, a heated staff meeting and a “sickout” by dozens of journalists at the paper.
Mr. Bennet’s tenure as editorial page editor, which started in 2016, was marked by several missteps. Last spring, The Times apologized for an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the Opinion pages of its international edition.
Last August, a federal appellate court found that Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate, could proceed with a defamation lawsuit against The Times over an editorial edited by Mr. Bennet that inaccurately linked her statements to the 2011 shooting of a congresswoman.