Dan Gainor: NY Times flip-flops and says Sen. Tom Cotton op-ed it published on rioting is unfit to print

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The New York Times, which haughtily claims it publishes “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” caved in to far-left political correctness Thursday. The paper decided it was wrong to publish an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that called for the military to be sent to U.S. cities to help local law enforcement deal with “rioters and looters.”

In the op-ed, Cotton made a point of saying his comments were not directed against “law-abiding protesters” responding to “the wrongful death of George Floyd,” a black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground May 25. That officer and three others have been fired and criminally charged in Floyd’s death. The death has sparked rioting in many cities.

The Times published an article online Thursday night saying the Cotton op-ed “fell short of the newspaper’s standards.” And it quoted its own spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy as stating: “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. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish.”

NY TIMES ISSUES 'MEA CULPA,' SAYS TOM COTTON OP-ED ON GEORGE FLOYD RIOTS 'RUSHED,' FAILED TO MEET STANDARDS

The stunning reversal by the newspaper of its decision to publish the Cotton op-ed was yet more evidence of the collapse of journalism at The New York Times.

Times staffers let out a scream heard across social media when their employer had the nerve to publish the view of a Republican senator that they disagreed with. The Washington Post called it a “staff uproar” and Vanity Fair went with the headline “Times Employees Rebel.” Both CNN and The Daily Beast turned to the word “revolt.”

The Daily Beast explained the reaction with the headline: “New York Times Staffers in Open Revolt Over Tom Cotton’s ‘Send in the Troops’ Column.”

I would rephrase that to say the refusal to allow a free exchange of ideas in the newspaper was revolting.

Will the Times now change its motto from “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to “All the News that Fits Our Far-Left Agenda?”

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Dozens of Times staffers vented their liberal spleens on Twitter when their newspaper dared allow Cotton to express his views in his well-reasoned op-ed. How do we know? Naturally, the Times wrote about how angry its self-important and aggrieved liberals were. They “responded to the Op-Ed on Twitter by tweeting the sentence (or variations on it): ‘Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.’”

That wasn’t enough. The paper’s Hollywood reporter, Brooks Barnes, called the op-ed “fascist garbage” that “should have been rejected.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones claimed that “I’ll probably get in trouble for this.” Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine writer, tweeted: “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.”

Hannah-Jones won that Pulitzer for her much-criticized faux history “1619 Project,” so she’s probably used to being ashamed of what the paper publishes. Now she’ll probably get commended for his criticism of her own employer before the Times flip-flopped.

Of course, the paper’s leftist union, The NewsGuild of New York, chimed in with predictably radical rhetoric. It wrote that Cotton’s “message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate, and is likely to encourage further violence. Invariably, invoking state violence disproportionately hurts Black and brown people.”

So much for the old-fashioned view that more speech is better speech. Instead, some of the most pampered voices in journalism are demanding a safe space.

There were a few Times voices defending the idea of a free exchange of ideas – before the paper came out against such a free exchange. These included Publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who said the newspaper wanted to give “readers a diversity of perspectives.”

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Editorial Page Editor James Bennet said “many readers find Senator Cotton's argument painful, even dangerous,” but still argued for it to be published. But that was before The Times made it clear that it no longer supported Bennet’s decision.

In fact, before his employer abandoned all pretense of supporting the airing of divergent viewpoints, Bennet took the right position when he wrote on the newspaper’s website earlier Thursday: “We published Cotton’s argument in part because we’ve committed to Times readers to provide a debate on important questions like this. It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose – not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.”

I couldn’t agree more with Bennet’s earlier view. And now The New York Times has, by his own account, “undermined the integrity and independence” of the newspaper.

While Cotton didn’t get the last word, he blasted the “woke-progressive mob” for trying to silence opinions the left doesn’t like. He won the battle for a brief time, but now the woke progressives at the paper have won the war.

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Whenever Times staffers freak out because their paper actually covered how the rest of America thinks on an issue, they make it less likely that will happen again.

Now the thought police have won a victory that many journalists are cheering. And the New York Times has made it quite clear that the views of those who don’t embrace far-left orthodoxy are unfit to print. 

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