Tom Cotton’s office baffled by New York Times’ backpedaling over op-ed on George Floyd riots

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, is pushing back against The New York Times on Friday morning after the paper made a bizarre claim that an op-ed he wrote, which caused Gray Lady staffers to lash out at their employer, didn’t meet its standards.

Cotton’s office told the National Review that the Times “extensively edited and fact-checked” the op-ed regardless of what it claims.

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“Its statement seems a transparent way to try to climb down from its decision to publish the piece to appease its staff and readers,” National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote after hearing Cotton’s side of the story.

Cotton's communications director Caroline Tabler told Fox News, "We weren’t contacted by The New York Times in advance of this statement and our editorial process was similar to our past experiences at The New York Times and other publications. We're curious to know what part of that process and this piece didn’t meet their standards."

It started when Cotton called on the federal government to "send in the troops" to quell violent uprisings over George Floyd's death in a op-ed published Wednesday that vexed the paper’s staff. What was described as an "open revolt" took place among dozens of Times employees with all of them tweeting in unison, "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger."

After Times editorial page editor James Bennet and Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger first defended the op-ed, a spokeswoman released a statement Thursday evening claiming Cotton's piece never should have been published.

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"We've examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards," the statement read. "As a result, we're planning to examine both short term and long term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reduction the number of op-eds we publish."

The paper did not explain any specific errors and the statement was widely condemned on social media.

Lowry published Cotton’s side of the story in the National Review after speaking with his team and said the Senator’s staff has “no idea what the Times is talking about” and that the process is similar to past op-eds he’s penned for the paper.

“The original pitch to the paper on Monday was to package together the argument on the Insurrection Act with another proposal, but the editors were interested in a piece focused solely on the Insurrection Act,” Lowry wrote, citing Cotton’s office and noting there was “haggling” over the angle of the op-ed.

“This negotiation took place with an editor who the Cotton team assumed was working with his superiors on his end,” Lowry wrote. “After several rounds of back of forth Monday and into Tuesday, Senator Cotton accepted the Times-approved topic.”

Cotton’s office told Lowry that there was a lot of back and forth, with Times editors sending multiple rounds of edits that would need to be approved by the Senator.

“Cotton and his team then signed off on the final version around 2:30 p.m. It was posted shortly after,” Lowry wrote. “Then, all hell broke loose.”

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Cotton’s team said the only known issue with the piece is on a set of quotation marks around the phrase “protect each of them from domestic violence,” but while it's unknown who uttered the words, the paper suggested simply removing the quotes altogether.

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.