By Elizabeth Llorente
Published May 02, 2019
The New York Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, has recused himself from coverage of the 2020 presidential election because of the entry of his older brother, Sen. Michael Bennet, into the race.
The New York Times announced Thursday that James Bennet “will not discuss, assign or edit any editorials, Op-Eds, columns or other opinion pieces focused on candidates or major issues in the campaign.”
The recusal will last as long as Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, remains in the contest, the newspaper said.
James Bennet, 53, became the Times editorial page editor in 2016, when he returned to the newspaper after having left in 2006 to help revitalize The Atlantic as its editor in chief. Prior to going to the Atlantic, he had a variety of roles at the New York Times, including Jerusalem bureau chief and White House correspondent. The Times endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since 1956, when it backed Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Michael Bennet, a three-term senator, announced his candidacy Thursday on CBS’ “This Morning.” He is now among more than 20 Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
The 54-year-old Bennet is a former head of the Denver school district who carved out a profile as a wonky, policy-oriented senator. He gained internet fame this year for a harsh scolding of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas over a government shutdown.
Bennet was close to launching a presidential campaign after that but had to pause it after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Bennet’s office said last month that the senator was successfully treated. That cleared the way for Thursday’s launch.
James Bennet, considered a top contender for the job of Times executive editor when Dean Baquet steps down, and the New York Times have been prepared for the recusal since at least earlier this year. The newspaper's reps hinted at that scenario in February when quoted in a Vanity Fair article about what James Bennet would do if his brother decided to enter the presidential race.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Vanity Fair: “Even now, James is not involved in any editorial decisions related to the senator.”
The Vanity Fair article noted: "One can’t conjure a precedent in which the editor or editorial-page editor of a major American newspaper had a sibling who was either running or possibly running for president, which makes James’s situation particularly unusual—and a little cruel, too."
Under Bennet, the Times editorial page itself has been in the headlines. Times readers ripped the hiring of conservative columnists such as Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens, and its publication of an anonymous editorial from a senior Trump administration official titled: “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
More recently, James Bennet figured prominently in coverage of a controversial anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in The New York Times international edition.
It showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind and skullcap-wearing U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Times now says the image "included anti-Semitic tropes." The cartoon appeared Thursday in print. A tweet from the New York Times Opinion account Saturday said the image "was offensive, and it was an error in judgment to publish it."
The deputy editorial page editors, Kathleen Kingsbury and James Dao, will take over political coverage as long as Michaell Bennet's campaign is active.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.