Sen. Tom Cotton denounced the controversy surrounding his New York Times op-ed last summer, which addressed how violence should be dealt with in the wake of riots emerging from racial justice protests.
Speaking about the riots that erupted in cities nationwide at CPAC Friday, Cotton stood by his June 2020 piece, which caused fury among Times staffers.
“I wrote an op-ed, it had a very simple message, very simple, very common sense message. Grounded in American history and law, supported by a majority of Americans, arguing very simply that if the police cannot, especially if they are not allowed to restore order, then it is time to send in the troops,” Cotton said to applause from attendees at the conservative gathering.
“What happened next? Total meltdown with the little social justice warriors at The New York Times. All these children, they’ve been marinated in the language of the campus seminar room. They said things like, ‘Your words put my life at risk.’ As if typing on their phones, sitting on futons was as dangerous as being a cop trying to stop rioters in the streets.”
Cotton went on to mock another criticism he says he received, that his words “are violence.”
“I’m sorry kiddo, words are words,” he said, “Violence is what your friends are doing out on the streets of America.”
“Of course the New York Times editors, they caved and rolled over and apologized. They said my work didn’t meet their standards. That’s one time I actually agree with the New York Times, my work did not meet their standards, it far exceeded their normally lousy standards.”
Cotton continued, “some people on the left even called for me to apologize. So let me say again, I will never apologize for defending America.”
After publishing Cotton’s op-ed, The Times initially defended its decision to run the piece.
The paper changed its tune, however, following days of backlash from staffers, including more than 300 non-editorial staffers staging a virtual walkout by calling in sick while hundreds of journalists tuned in to a virtual town hall with furious questions and comments for publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Dean Baquet and editorial page editor James Bennet.
Eventually, The Times threw the opinion editor under the bus, saying it “did not meet our standards” and was published due to a “rushed editorial process.”
Cotton slammed the paper at the time, saying that the editorial page editor and owner “totally surrendered to a woke child mob from their own newsroom that apparently gets triggered if they’re presented with any opinion contrary to their own.”
Following the episode, New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet resigned.