Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton

In the understatement of the year, the New York Times says the "Send in the Military" op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton did not meet its editorial standards and was published due to a "rushed editorial process."

Echoing Donald Trump's call to "dominate" the protests that have rocked the US in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Cotton called for an "overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers."

New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger should be applauded for believing in the "principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with."

That openness though should not apply to publishing opinion articles brimming with misinformation and innuendo.

Cotton accused unnamed elites for creating a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters. Please Senator, tell us who is speaking in defense of "rioters and looters?"

And then he trotted out the tried and true conservative talking point of "antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd for their own anarchic purposes."

The Times' opinion department operates separately from the news division but it shouldn't operate in its own world.

The opinion staff should have been aware that on June 1 their own paper reported that "conservative commentators are asserting with little evidence that antifa, the far-left antifascism activist movement, coordinated the riots and looting that sprang from the protests."

James Bennet, editor of the NYT's editorial page, on June 4 defended the decision to go with Cotton's op-ed.

He wrote:

"We published Cotton’s argument in part because we’ve committed to Times readers to provide a debate on important questions like this. It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself."

That's a very noble and high-minded sentiment. There is one little problem. Bennet hadn't read Cotton's piece before it was published.

One would think that in our explosive times, in which 10K protesting Americans have been arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights, Bennet could have found the time to fact-check Cotton.

The Times' self-inflicted wound provides much grist for Donald Trump and his allies who are desperate for distractions from his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the outrage in the aftermath of the latest killing of a black person by the police.

The Times' editorial process is more than just "rushed." It appears to be broken.