NY Times execs 'take turns apologizing' to staff amid Tom Cotton op-ed uproar: report

Top leadership at The New York Times reportedly took turns apologizing to its staff who were offended by the publishing of Sen. Tom Cotton's op-ed calling for troops to be sent to quell riots amid the George Floyd protests.

The Daily Beast reported on Friday of an internal staff meeting that addressed what's been described as an "open revolt" where dozens of Times journalists took to social media to publicly condemned the GOP lawmaker's column, insisting it would put the lives of "black @NYTimes staff in danger."

Times editorial page editor James Bennet offered an apology after he previously defended the paper's decision to run the "Send in the Troops" piece.

“I just want to begin by saying I’m very sorry, I’m sorry for the pain that this particular piece has caused,” Bennet said. “I do think this is a moment for me and for us to interrogate everything we do in opinion.”

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Bennet acknowledged during a Q&A session that he "should have been involved" in the piece's approval after it became known that he did not read Cotton's op-ed before it was published. He admitted that it was the Times who approached Cotton about writing on the subject after he tweeted his support for military involvement in quelling the violence.

Times executive editor Dean Baquet reportedly was "impressed" and "proud" with the staff's solidarity in the public outcry.

The paper's executive vice president and COO Meredith Kopit Levien chimed in on the apology tour.

"We all work at the Times because we believe this institution can help right wrongs in a way that few others can. ... I'm sorry that this time we increased pain rather than reduced it," Levien said.

Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger called the op-ed "sloppy" and, according to the Daily Beast, said "the tone was contemptuous and 'inflammatory.'"

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“I’m not defending the piece, but I suspect there was a good-faith attempt,” Sulzberger said about seeking the Arkansas senator's perspective.

Times CEO Mark Thompson acknowledged "serious editorial mistakes" were made and that called for the top executive at the paper to have a “weekend of deep reflection.”

On Friday, the Times added a lengthy editors' note to Cotton's op-ed attempting to explain why it should never have been published.

"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," the editors' note read. "Instead, the editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved. While Senator Cotton and his staff cooperated fully in our editing process, the Op-Ed should have been subject to further substantial revisions — as is frequently the case with such essays — or rejected."

It later continued, "Beyond those factual questions, the tone of the essay in places is needlessly harsh and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate. Editors should have offered suggestions to address those problems. The headline — which was written by The Times, not Senator Cotton — was incendiary and should not have been used."

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In a statement to Fox News, Cotton Communications Director Caroline Tabler blasted the editors' note.

"This editor’s note is another humiliation for The New York Times. Senator Cotton stands by every word he wrote," Tabler stated.

Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report.