The revolution is eating itself at the New York Times. After the Times ran Sen. Tom Cotton’s call for using the National Guard to quell riots, a riot broke out in the Times’s News department. Although a poll earlier this week found that 63 percent of Democrats ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ supported Cotton’s suggestion, the woke warriors at the Times were truly triggered. On Thursday, some 800 staffers broke the terms of their contracts and publicly denounced their employer. Most demonstrated their fearless individuality by retweeting the same sentence: ‘This article endangers Black @nytimes staff.’
There’s no mob without a lynching. The rope is now around the neck of 25-year-old Adam Rubenstein, the Opinion staffer who worked on Cotton’s op-ed. He’s a junior staffer, who, horrifically, was recently hired from a conservative magazine.
Who put the rope there and offered Rubinstein up to the mob? The senior management of the Times. They’re running scared of their own staff and, a well-placed source tells The Spectator, they’re covering their own responsibility by putting out a false version of what happened.
When the Times’s in-house mob Mau-Mau’d their paper for running Cotton’s ‘factual inaccuracies’, the management caved. On Thursday, James Bennet and his deputy James Dao told an Opinion section meeting there had been what the Times now calls ‘a breakdown in the process of preparing the essay for publication’. On Thursday night, the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, told company employees over the internal messaging app Slack that a ‘rushed editorial process’ had led to the publication of an op-ed that ‘did not meet our standards’.
Soon afterwards, the Times repeated this as the official line in a press statement. In an apparently coordinated attempt at damage control, Opinion chief editor James Bennet fell on his knees struggle-session style and begged for forgiveness. Then the Times published what purported to be an investigation of how Cotton had been permitted to state the obvious on its op-ed page. The article, written by media reporters Marc Tracy, Rachel Abrams and Edmund Lee, presents itself as an exposé. But a source at the Times tells The Spectator it’s more like a cover-up.
As Bennet and Dao said privately on Thursday, Cotton’s op-ed was fact-checked before publication. The Spectator’s source says that Cotton’s op-ed received the same treatment as all his previous Times op-eds did.
Nor does it matter that James Bennet didn’t read Cotton’s op-ed. The Opinion section publishes around 20 articles a day. Of course, it’s not possible for James Bennet to read them all. The Times, like other papers, has a system for this. There are three lines of defense: Bennet, his two deputies James Dao and Kathleen Kingsbury, and then their deputies. There are some 126 people working in the Opinion section. It’s hard to believe none of them signed off on Cotton’s op-ed.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, is in charge of the News division. He justifies his staffers’ attack on the Opinion section thus: ‘When my newsroom is agitated, I respond to that.’
That’s not the considered, objective response of a professional. It’s the panicked power-play of a boomer who’s afraid he’ll be next. Baquet told the Times’s media reporters that ‘readers might not be aware of the wall separating the news and opinion departments’.
This isn’t really true either. The divisions are managed separately and they work independently but Baquet, who got his start when the newsroom was thick with the clatter of typewriters and the smell of pipe tobacco, seems to have forgotten how his newspaper now works.
The News staffers could have found out about Cotton’s op-ed either from someone in the Opinion section, or through the Times’s content management system, which is how the paper manages its workflow. Despite the impression given by Baquet on Thursday, the content management system has no wall between material posted by Opinion staffers and material posted by News staffers.
The News staffers clearly believe their nutty politics trumps the Times’s claim to represent a reasonable range of opinion — a range that has included the thoughts of Vladimir Putin and various terrorists without inciting a staff revolt. The intolerant, expensively educated young lefties are converting the Opinion pages from a public square to a propaganda outlet — and they’re using their paper’s system against it.
As the Times tells its reporters, a story needs at least two corroborations to make sure it ‘stands up’. Here’s the second: Tom Cotton’s staff have told Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, that this op-ed, like Cotton’s previous op-eds for the Times, received a ‘rigorous’ and ‘onerous’ fact-checking. Three drafts went back and forth.
So who’s telling the truth? The management, for whom this is only the latest in a series of unprofessional foul-ups — or The Spectator’s source and Tom Cotton’s staff?
The member of Cotton’s staff who worked with Rubenstein on the edits told The Spectator this morning that while he emailed only with Rubenstein, there were sticking points in the process when it was necessary for Rubenstein to consult with unnamed Times colleagues. These points were all resolved. The inference, Cotton’s staffer tells The Spectator, is that Rubenstein was not, as the Times now claims, working alone or unsupervised:
‘What they have attempted to do to a young editor who is doing his job, and also doing it well, is a disgrace.’
The Spectator has approached the Times for comment.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.