Editor James Bennet Resigns From the New York Times Editorial Page

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The takeaways

  • James Bennet resigns as Editorial Page Editor of the New York Times following employee and social media backlash.
  • The backlash was a result of Bennett approving an op-ed by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton that was perceived as calling for violence against anti-racism protestors.
  • The Times’ internal investigation has led to changes in editorial and fact-checking policies.

What happened?

Through its publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, the New York Times announced on Sunday that James Bennet has resigned as editor of its editorial page, effective immediately. This follows a controversial Times op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas last Wednesday directly appealing to President Trump to respond to violent protests over the death of George Floyd with force. Times employees organized a social media protest, claiming that publishing the op-ed endangered black colleagues. 

The approval of the op-ed and the subsequent backlash called Bennet’s editorial judgment into question. Bennet had previously stood by his decision to publish the piece on June 4th, although he also admitted to not having read it prior to publication. The Times subsequently described the editing process as “rushed” and that the piece did not meet their standards. The publisher also indicated that it would increase its fact-checking capacity and reduce the number of future op-eds.

Changing roles and damage control, effective immediately

Sulzberger confirmed Bennet’s resignation via an internal email to the NYT’s employees and described recent events as “a significant breakdown in our editing processes”. He also revealed that Katie Kingsbury would assume acting Editorial Page editorship through the November elections and deputy Opinion editor Jim Dao, who also oversaw op-eds, was being reassigned to a different role in the newsroom.

An editor’s note dated June 5th has since been added to Senator Cotton’s op-ed. In it, the Times explains that “after publication, this essay met strong criticism from many readers (and many Times colleagues), prompting editors to review the piece and the editing process. Based on that review, we have concluded that the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.”

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