Ousted Editor Tracks Downfall Of ‘Illiberal’ New York Times

Despite former New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz’s unfounded allegation that “right-wing opinions are fine [but] left-wing opinions are not” at the newspaper, evidence has routinely indicated that the opposite might be true.

One notable example involved the massive internal backlash to the Times’s decision to publish an op-ed written by a sitting U.S. senator simply because of the conservative views he included therein.

Following the publication of a column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in 2020, there was a call for retribution that resulted in the coerced resignation of two editors: opinion editor James Bennet and executive editor Stan Wischnowski.

More than three years later, Bennet is now speaking out about the troubling devolution he has seen within the outlet for which he previously worked. He weighed in on the matter in a lengthy piece published this week by The Economist titled “When the New York Times lost its way.”

He began by describing the societal climate that existed when the Cotton op-ed was published. It was in the midst of emerging nationwide riots stemming from the death of George Floyd in Wisconsin just days earlier, and the senator “was calling for the use of troops to protect lives and businesses from rioters,” Bennet wrote.

At first, he said that publisher A.G. Sulzberger “understood why we’d published the op-ed,” even though he wanted the article to include links to other columns expressing a different opinion on the matter.

“I get and support the reason for including this piece,” Sulzberger reportedly emailed Bennet that afternoon.

As backlash grew, however, the ex-editor said his then-boss changed his opinion, ultimately telling him to contact executive editor Dean Baquet. He wrote that he and Baquet were “taken aback by the criticism that Times readers shouldn’t hear what Cotton had to say,” particularly given his influence as a sitting senator who “could well be making his argument directly to the president, Donald Trump.”

Nevertheless, Bennet recalled receiving a call from Sulzberger three days later and being forced to retire.

In his assessment, this was a decisive step in the Times’ slide from “liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favor one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut down debate altogether.”

He wrote that Times staff had fully embraced “bullying and group-think” as an operational tactic as the paper’s critics believed they were “always right about everything” and thus “justified in shouting disagreement down.”

Driving home his overarching point, Bennet wrote that “to assert that the Times plays by the same rules it always has it commit a hypocrisy that is transparent to conservatives, dangerous to liberals and bad for the country as a whole,” adding that the once-venerable organization “is becoming the publication through which America’s progressive elite talks to itself about an America that does not really exist.”