The Cotton Controversy One Year Later: The Dark Anniversary of the Surrender of the New York Times

This week is the one-year anniversary of one of the lowest points in the history of modern American journalism. During the week of June 6, 2020, the New York Times forced out an opinion editor and apologized for publishing the editorial of Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) calling for the use of the troops to restore order in Washington after days of rioting around the White House.  While Congress would “call in the troops” six months later to quell the rioting at the Capitol on January 6th, New York Times reporters and columnists called the column historically inaccurate and politically inciteful. Reporters insisted that Cotton was even endangering them by suggesting the use of troops and insisted that the newspaper cannot feature people who advocate political violence. One year later, the New York Times published a column by an academic who has previously declared that there is nothing wrong with murdering conservatives and Republicans.

As I observed at the time of the Cotton column, I disagree with the basis or wisdom of invoking to the Insurrection Act to address the rioting in Washington.  (The Act was not invoked to deploy national guard to end the Capitol riot). However, I also noted that the column was historically accurate. Critics never explained what was historically false (or outside the range of permissible interpretation) in the column. Moreover, writers Taylor Lorenz, Caity Weaver, Sheera Frankel, Jacey Fortin, and others said that such columns put black reporters in danger and condemned publishing Cotton’s viewpoint.

In a breathtaking surrender, the newspaper apologized and not only promised an investigation in how such an opposing view could find itself on its pages but promised to reduce the number of editorials in the future.  In a statement that will go done in journalistic infamy, the newspaper announced:

“We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short term and long term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reduction the number of op-eds we publish.”

One of the writers who condemned the decision to publish Cotton was New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones.  Hannah-Jones applauded the decision of the Times to apologize for publishing such an opposing viewpoint and denounced those who engage in what she called “even-handedness, both sideism” journalism. Opinion editor James Bennet was rustled out to make a pleading apology. That however was not enough. He was later compelled to resign for publishing a column that advocates an option used previously in history with rioting.

Notably, not long after Bennet was thrown under the bus, Hannah-Jones herself tweeted out a bizarre anti-police conspiracy theory that injuries and destruction caused by fireworks was not the fault of protesters but actually part of a weird police conspiracy. She later deleted the tweet but there was no hue and cry over accuracy or “both sideisms.”

Nor was there such calls for reexamining standards when Hannah-Jones’ famous “1619 project” (which earned her a Pulitzer Prize) was found to have fundamental historical flaws and researchers claimed the New York Times ignored them in raising the errors.  Hanna-Jones will soon be teaching journalism at the University of North Carolina.

The sacking of Bennet had its intended effect. Writers and columnists with opposing or critical views were soon forced off newspapers around the country, including at the New York Times.

Cotton and conservatives are also rarely seen on the pages of the New York Times unless it is to criticize the party or Trump. The writers have condemned the “both sideism” of allowing conservative viewpoints in the newspaper and insisted that Cotton and others must be banned as favoring potential violent actions against protesters. Yet, the newspaper has published people with anti-free speech and violent viewpoints in the last year. While the New York Times stands by its declaration that Cotton should never have been published, it had no problem in publishing “Beijing’s enforcer” in Hong Kong as Regina Ip mocked freedom protesters who were being beaten and arrested by the government.

Indeed, just before the anniversary of the Cotton controversy, the New York Times published a column by University of Rhode Island professor  Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence.  (Loomis has also been ridiculed for denouncing statistics, science, and technology as inherently racist).

Loomis’ article on “Why The Amazon Workers Never Stood A Chance” did not include his violent philosophy. It was in my view a worthy and interesting column for publication. So was Cotton’s column. However, NYT reporters and columnists have insisted that figures like Cotton should not be published because they have supported violence against protesters.  Yet, they have no apparent problem in publishing someone who has declared that there is nothing wrong with actually murdering conservatives.  The paper also has no problem with someone who is partially responsible for the systemic and violent suppression of democracy protesters.

As I said on the publication of Regina Ip, I would like to see all of these writers published. Even if I find some of their views wrong or even grotesque, newspapers should be forums where readers are exposed to different and even unsettling viewpoints. Self-censoring does not extinguish such views. It only fuels an appetite to control and censor opposing views.

I was hoping against experience that the media, and particularly the New York Times, would run a self-critique of its actions on the one-year anniversary of the Cotton controversy. Such a review would have allowed for a critical look at many of the assumptions of that week. For example, virtually every news outlet in the country ran stories that week on the clearing of Lafayette Park. Indeed, many justified the Cotton action in light of the Lafayette operation, which used an unnecessary level of force.  However, the media reported, as a fact, that Attorney General Bill Barr cleared the park to allow for Trump’s much-maligned photo op in front of St. John’s church.  That allegation was quickly refuted and there is now ample evidence that the clearing operation was ordered before any plans for the photo op. It was ordered due to the high level of violence and destruction over the weekend protests around the White House. Yet, news organizations have never corrected their reporting.  Indeed, legal experts like University of Texas professor and CNN contributor Steve Vladeck continue to claim that Barr ordered federal officers “to forcibly clear protestors in Lafayette Park to achieve a photo op for Trump.”

Likewise, much of the media lionized D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for her stance at the time. She received national acclaim for painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street next to the park and renaming it “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” Bowser denounced the force used by the Trump administration, including the use of tear gas. It now turns out (as revealed last week in court filings) that the District used tear gas a block away to enforce Bowser’s curfew. The debate over the denial of using tear gas by the federal operation raged for a year (the federal government insists that it used pepper balls, which has basically the same effect on protesters). Yet, over that year,, neither Bowser nor her government stepped forward to say that D.C.’s Metropolitan Police used tear gas in their operations a block or so from Lafayette Park. The District is now arguing that the use of tear gas was entirely reasonable and the BLM lawsuit should be dismissed.

In the meantime, the Biden administration agrees that the BLM case should be dismissed entirely. The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains that “Presidential security is a paramount government interest that weighs heavily in the Fourth Amendment balance.” The DOJ’s counsel, John Martin, added that “federal officers do not violate First Amendment rights by moving protesters a few blocks, even if the protesters are predominantly peaceful.”

The media has virtually blacked out coverage of the change in the position of Bowser, the admission of the District, or the position of the Biden Administration.  Over the last year, the media has instead plunged headlong into advocacy journalism. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation.

Not surprisingly,  over this year, the faith in the media has continued to plummet. A survey by the global communications firm Edelman (via Axios) found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media.  That mirrors polls by Gallup showing an even lower level of trust.  We are living in a new age of yellow journalism at a time when real journalism has never been more needed.

Once again, they would be wise to heed the words of Louis Brandeis in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California (1927) when he declared “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

So, for what it is worth, happy anniversary to the staff and writers of The New York Times.



67 thoughts on “The Cotton Controversy One Year Later: The Dark Anniversary of the Surrender of the New York Times”

  1. Should the political/ideological war between the left and RIGHT taking place now turn into a real war, the New York Times should be the first target of the RIGHT. I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

  2. The New York Times places a high value on the diversity of all human attributes except thought.

  3. I have turned off all mainstream media and unsubscribed from my newspapers for this reason. Journalism has hit a low. Gone are the days of hard questions, undercover investigations and stark sarcasm of people in power on all sides of political perspective in cartoons and comedy. We live in an Orwellian dystopia.

    Common sense? Critical thinking? Gone!

  4. When I was younger, I used to go out of my way to find a copy of the NYT, I read The Nation and The Progressive, I admired The Washington Post, and I looked forward to the latest issue of Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.
    Not anymore.
    Now, I find The Federalist, Substack, and a few other publications more trustworthy and more informative, and Carlson at least as credible as Stephanopoulos, with twice the wit. I gradually stopped reading the the Nation, the NYT, and the Washington Post because I was annoyed and disillusioned by their poor coverage of domestic politics and events in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I dropped The Progressive after its old editor passed away and a new staff member wondered whether it was a good ‘career move’ to work for the magazine.
    The rot in the print media did not begin in 2016; it began at least forty years ago, when, as Bagdikian noted, the consolidation of print media led to cost-cutting and the end of such staples as investigative reportering, which was expensive and might annoy advertisers (Seymour Hersh was an exception, not the rule, and he was independent). Most reporters are now trained at university, not in the newsroom, and they appear to bruise easily, perhaps because they have cozied up to professors and written for school newspapers rather than waste time in half-filled court-rooms or the local ER.
    Print media was never truly objective, but they offered a smorgasbord of news and opinion, and most cities had two newspapers and several radio and TV stations, and bigger cities could have several of each.
    Not anymore.
    As the internet grew, print media lost subscribers (why pay when you can get your news free?), bloggers replaced journalists (why do research when you can make stuff up?), and adverstisers left print for digital media (why hope that someone sees your ad on a printed page when you can flash it on a digital screen in color?).
    Now the NYT asks the government for permission to print embarrassing news, The Washington Post offers specious fact checking, and the tech lords are able to cancel both the New York Post and the President of the country with impunity. If Orson Welles made Citizen Kane today, he would cast a black kid from the ghetto, not a white kid from the Dakotas, as the head of a tech company, not the editor of a newspaper, and if Jerry Faber wrote a new version of The Student as Nigger, he would reword the title and substitute ‘professor’ or white supremacist for student to avoid being cancelled and doxxed.
    I still have my copy of Faber’s pamphlet, a relic from a decade when free speech was considered fundamental to a free society by those on the left (as well as those in the center and those on the right); when language was to be used, not banned; and when to be radical meant to aspire to a better society for everybody because, quaint as it sounds today, most of us really did believe that all lives mattered, even white lives.
    The people who sought to muzzle Cotton and forced out Bennet have always been there, as have the people who believe a person should be condemnded and fired for exercising their right of free speech, as well as those who write distorted history to promote an agenda. But they usually did not have power and, as one CNN pundit put it, ‘reach,’ so the damage they could do was limited.
    Not anymore.

    1. You raise some interesting points.

      I used to be an avid reader of Harpers, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic They were once reasonably apolitical and interesting along a range of topics, even if sometimes a little left of center. They started to lose it when George W. Bush was first elected, and it wasn’t long until they devolved into open contempt. Things only got worse when Obama’s politics of grievance and resentment gained ascendency. Then they went completely bonkers when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. We’re now to the point where people like Aruna (let’s shoot the white people in the head) Khilanani pass for reasonable political thought.

      It has taken a generation to get to this point. One hope for the future hinges on a new coalition between people of diverse political viewpoints who find common cause based on core liberal values. Left-leaning journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi could be among the leaders of a new way of thinking. That is, if the Progressive left doesn’t destroy them first.

      1. Perhaps. One can hope, especially given that the majority of Americans do not buy into all this silliness. Taibbi’s latest piece suggests that he sees a possible convergence of people who occupy different positions on the conventional political spectrum, but still share what used to be accepted as common American, and “Western” values, especially free speech. The ‘tell’ here is the refusal to accept losing an election, something both parties used to agree upon. That changed in 2016, not 2020.
        I think you are correct that changes accelerated with Bush, Jr., changed which can be traced further back, e.g., to the takeover of the Democratic Party by the Clinton clique and the ascendancy of the neo-Cons in both parties. Certainly, Bush and Obama divided the American electorate and contributed to the current polarization, as have much of the media and those teachers and professors who have pushed multiculturalism (which divides rather than unites), politically correct speech (which blames but does not reconcile), identity politics (which encourages narcissism rather than altruism), and CRT (which eschews empirical evidence and favors the sort of powerful arguments favored by postmodernists).
        But I fear that it may take a generation to change, and I do not see how that change will come so long as those who are pushing these spurious arguments and vicious values retain control of our most powerful and influential institutions.

      2. We have George Will on our side and his conservative credentials are unimpeachable. If and when Trump is prosecuted and convicted, you can maintain that it was a Deep State conspiracy, but in the fullness of time, Trumpism will be put in the ash heap of history just like McCarthyism. Yours is a losing battle.

  5. Google pay 390$ reliably my last paycheck was $55000 working 10 hours out of consistently on the web. My increasingly youthful kinfolk mate has been averaging 20k all through continuous months and he works around 24 hours reliably. I can’t trust how direct it was once I attempted it out. This is my essential concern…:) For more info visit any tab on this site Thanks a lot GOOD LUCK………._

  6. I gave up on the NYT when they supported the invasion of Iraq. I wasn’t a big fan before that, but that sealed the deal.

  7. The media cat Decribe what a Bitcoin is. Gold in there? Silver? Business production backing it up?
    Nothing. Nada.
    Dumbshits buy it

    1. You don’t know that most money, including American money, is fiat money. Nothing solid backs it.

  8. Music to tune of johnny b good
    Up in New York shitty when the sun go down..
    People yak in frenzy while their pants are down.
    New Yorkies look down on y’all.
    Avoid their news and yaksters…
    And throw them some Moe.

  9. The New York Times is the official publication of the communist party; a treasonous and purely communist rag.

    Which traitors consume its propaganda and facilitate its anti-Constitution, anti-American, communist indoctrination efforts?

    How genius were the American Founders who provided for freedom of the press, enabling Americans to discern and know their enemies.

  10. I enjoy this site very much and I never miss a chance to see, hear or read Professor Turley…however, if I could get him to adjust one facet of this great blog it would be to do away with multiple people being allowed to use the same name of Anonymous. I have no issue with people remaining anonymous, se my own clever take on my old hockey idol, but to have multiple people calling themselves the same name is confusing and it hides the truly loathsomeness of one particular Anonymous guy.

    Having said my piece above I will add to the topic at hand that journalism is dead and we have the NY Times and others to blame. To decry discussing or reporting two sides is the nail in the proverbial coffin and having mental lightweights like Hannah-Jones preaching as she waves her prizes in our faces shows the horrible slide of intellectualism, truth, history and journalism.

    1. “se [sic] my own clever take on my old hockey idol”

      Gotta wonder about people who use someone else’s name…

    2. Hullbobby, the comment below is from Anonymous the Stupid. Quite a while back, I became frustrated like you with responses from an Anonymous character who would run away and use pretend friends to pat him on the back or blame when Anonymous the Stupid made a foolish statement he wanted to hide.

      I decided the best way of handling such an obnoxious and ignorant fellow was to adopt some of his characteristics and separate him from the pack. That is why I call him Anonymous the Stupid. That separates that loathsome person from the other anonymous persons. I frequently use an unknown label when doing so and have added the same to a few others.

      One can save a lot of time, if needed, by deleting all anonymous emails, thus effectively getting rid of the anonymous ones except when they stand up at the curb to bite at your ankles. It would be best if the blog prevented such postings to begin with.

      My anonymous postings are generally not worthwhile to read as they are primarily responses in kind, mostly to Anonymous the Stupid. If I am responding to something of significance, I use my name, S. Meyer, and sometimes sign SM to those obnoxious fellows when I reply with a bit more content.

      Note, though Anonymous the Stupid hates it, on occasions another poster has used the Anonymous the Stupid name. That is OK and I will take the blame. It is an honor to treat Anonymous the Stupid in the way he ought be treated.

        1. Anonymous the Stupid, I post back the same type of garbage you post on the net. The only difference is what I say is True.

      1. I don’t know about others who post anonymously, but S. Meyer’s comments are like water off a duck’s back.

        S. Meyer is a joke.

        1. “I don’t know about others who post anonymously, but S. Meyer’s comments are like water off a duck’s back.”

          Anonymous the Stupid, I see the similarity. You have the brain of a duck.

        2. “Note, though Anonymous the Stupid hates it,…”

          Hilarious. S. Meyer pretends to know what others are thinking and feeling, when he doesn’t have a clue.

          1. Anonymous the Stupid, you have indicated so in your replies. You could straighten things out by stating the truth, and then we can check and see what you have written in the past or check what you write in the future. But, instead, you prefer to remain unclear. To me, that means, “Note, though Anonymous the Stupid hates it,…”

            1. Thanks for letting us know that you hate Allanonymous the Stupid, Allan S(tupid) Meyer, and Allan the Abusive, and you assume that other anonymous commenters give a **** about your nicknames for them.

              1. Thanks for another dumb response, Anonymous the Stupid. I am glad you don’t have problems with your name. That demonstrates your recognition of your problem. Way to go.

                1. No, it demonstrates that you’re a tr0ll describing yourself, and no one gives a **** what you think about them.

                    1. “You’re mistaken.”

                      Anonymous the Stupid, your persistence on such a petty thing tells one I wasn’t mistaken, and you are deluding yourself.

  11. The NYT has had its liberal bias, which was easy to ignore.
    Then, 2016 happened.
    Them and most MSM sold out their journalistic integrity and objectivity for the corporate agenda and now for wokeism.
    It is not just the professor who has pointed this out, but other journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and former NYT journalist Bari Weiss.

  12. Perhaps this infamous anniversary could be a jump off point for those America-loving liberals unwittingly riding the tyrannical Left’s train to their own destruction.

  13. “This is false. ”

    This comment is demonstrative of anonymous superficiality.

    “He resigned after admitting that he allowed the column to be published without having read it, which means he failed to do his job.”

    If anonymous knew anything about business and corporations, he would know that there is the published reason for resigning and then the real reason. But, unfortunately, Anonymous is not an intelligent observer of the world, so he can only provide the one he has heard from the sources that provide his leftist responses.

    There would have been no reason for me to comment if he stopped there, but he made a jerk of himself by trying to attack Turley for stating a more rational explanation for the resignation. In the process, Anonymous called Turley a potential liar, knowing full well that Turley says things as he sees them. So anonymous is projecting (one of his favorite words he doesn’t understand) and indirectly calling another a liar when he knows full well that lying and deception are what anonymous relies on.

    1. Same old silly song and dance…

      “In the process, Anonymous called Turley a potential liar…”

      You might want to rethink the whole ‘potential liar’ thing, S. Meyer.

      1. Why should I consider rethinking anything above? What I said is true, including that you are a liar and not very bright. That is how you got your name, Anonymous the Stupid.

        Take note, you are the one to hide under an anonymous name. I only do so when I stoop to your level, and sometimes when I stoop to the level of some others.

    2. “[T]here is the published reason for resigning and then the real reason.”

      Exactly. The “I didn’t read it” is the corporate equivalent of: “I’m stepping down to spend more time with my family.” (Sure you are.)

      Bennet was forced to resign because the NYT caved to the Woke mob. And the paper needed a sacrificial lamb.

      Incidentally, the Cotton op-ed was edited, by the editorial page staff. To think that Bennet *not* reading it is unusual, is to betray a deep ignorance about the management of a large-scale op-ed operation.

  14. “Hanna-Jones will soon be teaching journalism at the University of North Carolina.” Not sure what she will be teaching, but from what I’ve seen here, it sure won’t be journalism

    1. Word around the UNC faculty lounge is that James Comey will be presenting a guest lecture on Ethical Leadership to Hannah-Jones’ class. The first assignment will be a research project deconstructing how the systemic injustice endured by Elizabeth Warren as a result of her Cherokee heritage serves as a metaphor for the larger inequities in American society. If they can work out the scheduling, Robert Mueller will also be presenting a lecture on the legal system as a tool for political change.

      1. My impression is that the NYT and most other media shifted into the propaganda over fact model February 2014 during the coup in Ukraine.

        1. I think we could go back even further — all the hype about WMDs for one, but that’s not even the earliest example. Behind every false flag and phoney war is media propaganda to sell it to the public.

      2. And maybe they’ll bring in GW to lecture on “Art and Aesthetics in the Woke Era.”

  15. That is one of many reasons the NYTimes cannot be trusted and should not be relied upon as a primary source of information. Additionally, the NYT is discriminatory and dishonest. The NYT promotes news that doesn’t exist, uses anonymous sources, and emphasizes its opinion in its front-page information, disguising it as news.

  16. The only reasonable means of pointing out flaws is by allowing MORE debate, not less. And contrary to what the snowflakes at The New York Times believe, debate requires open conversation, possible disagreement, opinions, and the possibility of one of the participants being offended. Just as everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion, everyone also has an equal right to be offended. Yet this seems to be anathema to those “journalists” at The New York Times.

    The best news is that modern journalism is getting the respect it now deserves, universally.

  17. And as reliably as a case of the Tijuana squitters, here comes Anonymous in the first of many posts today.

    The fellow spends his entire day hitting the refresh button on his browser looking for opportunities to comment.

    Tells us what his life is like.

    And that segues into the inherent dishonesty of today’s Left.

    They lie to us, they lie to each other, and they even lie to themselves.

    The NYT has become self indulgent, biased, and mendacious; basically propaganda sheet.

    Read the posts of the Lefties on this blog and you see the same traits.

    Today’s Left is fundamentally dishonest.

  18. At the time it seemed a big deal. In the wake of Hunter’s laptop and full blown, months long suppression of discussion of the origin of COVID/19 and election irregularities and the Antifa riots and the mid-characterization
    of the Jan 6 riot, and plenty of other things, this one now seems like a quaint little thing from a more innocent era.

  19. “He was later compelled to resign for publishing a column that advocates an option used previously in history with rioting.”

    This is false.

    He resigned after admitting that he allowed the column to be published without having read it, which means he failed to do his job.

    JT has been corrected about this before. JT is either exceptionally ignorant about a topic he’s choosing to address, or he is dishonest. Neither option reflects well on him.

        1. Turley is reasonably truthful. He sees things from a left-wing perspective but tries to be fair. Unfortunately, when he is fair, he gets accused of not being truthful. The problem Turley faces is he can’t satisfy all the people all the time. The right on this blog is tolerant, but The left looks only for blood. Anonymous lefties have little understanding of the facts or fair play.

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