The New York Times’ new standard for acceptable op-eds

As Scott recounted this morning, Tom Cotton entered the public’s consciousness in 2006 when Power Line published a letter he wrote that the New York Times had rejected. The letter attacked two Times reporters who had undermined U.S. anti-terrorism efforts by writing about a highly classified terrorist finance tracking program.

Tom had a strong personal stake. The men he was leading on patrols through the streets of Baghdad were exposed to attack by terrorists whose funding the U.S. was trying to halt.

In the intervening fourteen years, Cotton has become a U.S. Senator and an important national figure. He no longer relies on letters to the editor, or on Power Line, to make his views known to the reading public. Indeed, the Times itself has published his op-eds.

This week, as we noted at the time, it published a Cotton op-ed advocating invocation of the Insurrection Act of 1807 to protect communities from “nihilist criminals.” But, in response to whining from some of its staff, the Times is criticizing its decision to run the piece.

After initially defending publication, the Times now claims the op-ed “did not meet our standards.” The op-ed was the result of a “rushed editorial process,” the paper adds.

But James Dao, the Times’ deputy editorial page editor, says that several editors saw the op-ed before it was published — “including one on the masthead: me.” Dao also says the op-ed was fact-checked. Thus, claims about a “rushed editorial process” and failure to “meet standards” are rubbish.

Dao gets to the heart of the matter when he states he is “sorry” that the op-ed had “this kind of impact on my colleagues.” This, then, is the Times’ new standard for op-eds: They must not offend lefty staff members.

Nikole Hannah-Jones of the Times is one of the offended. She tweeted: “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.”

The irony here is difficult to understate. Hannah-Jones put together the Times’ “1619 project.” Unlike Cotton’s op-ed, which withstood a fact check,” Hannah-Jones’s rewrite of American history did not.

Hannah-Jones asked Leslie Harris, a historian of African-American life and slavery, to review her claim that preserving slavery was a “critical reason” why the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain. Harris says he “vigorously disputed” this assertion. Hannah-Jones presented it anyway. It has subsequently been attacked by one prominent historian after another.

The Times should be deeply ashamed that it ran Hannah-Jones’s hugely distorted account of our history.

Commenting on the dispute over Cotton’s piece, the Washington Post sniffed:

The Cotton op-ed made several questionable assertions, such as that “leftwing radicals, like antifa, [have] infiltrated marches,” and that “some elites” have condoned vandalism and looting. Cotton didn’t identify any individual making such statements, nor offer any support that antifa — a vaguely defined group of radicals — had instigated violence.

Actually, Cotton did identify an individual who condoned violence. He linked to a piece that quoted Chris Cuomo saying that protesters don’t need to be peaceful because “this is not a tranquil time.”

Apparently, none of the three Post reporters who wrote the story bothered to click on Cotton’s link. Maybe the Post needed four reporters.

There is also support for Cotton’s statement that Antifa has instigated violence. Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray both say the government has evidence of this.

As noted, the Times fact checked Cotton’s op-ed before publication. The op-ed passed, and should have done. The same cannot be said for the Post’s account of this matter.

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