Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, tore into the New York Times on the Senate floor on Wednesday over the controversy over an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. -- with McConnell noting that the Times had previously published op-eds by Vladimir Putin and an essay arguing that pedophilia is not a crime.
“Vladimir Putin? No problem. Iranian propaganda? Sure. But nothing could have prepared them for 800 words from the junior Senator for Arkansas,” McConnell said, mocking the Grey Lady’s turmoil.
McConnell spoke after a controversy at the Times over the op-ed by Cotton in which he called for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers” amid the riots that engulfed cities across America in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Amid a revolt from the Times’ own staffers, the Times eventually attached a lengthy editors’ note to the piece and its editorial page editor, James Bennet, resigned.
McConnell noted that while Times staffers were outraged at the piece, it stands in contrast to the treatment of an op-ed by Putin -- in which he argued against airstrikes in Syria in 2013 -- and an op-ed that called pedophilia “a disorder not a crime.”
He also noted that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote a “message from Iran” in the paper in 2015.
“As far as I know, none of those decisions occasioned public revolts from the paper’s staff, hand-wringing apologies from the editors, or an overhaul of the masthead. Presumably, it was understood that pushing the envelope and airing disagreements are necessary in a free market of ideas,” he said. “But one week ago, the Grey Lady finally met her match.”
McConnell cited polls that he said show that 58 percent of Americans agree with Cotton’s opinion to send troops to assist in restoring order in the cities where police were overwhelmed by riots and looting.
“His view was controversial, no question. But there is also no question it was a legitimate view for a Senator to express,” McConnell said, noting that Cotton’s argument “met with strong criticism” and said that that should have been followed by discussion and debate.
“But that is not quite what happened. Instead of trying to win the argument, the far left tried to end the discussion,” he said.
He said that the Times was forced to “atone” for “hurt feelings.”
“One of our nation’s most storied newspapers just had its intellectual independence challenged by an angry mob -- and they folded like a house of cards.”
He concluded by warning that “this broader left-wing obsession with banning heretics from the public square will be poison for this country if it persists.”