by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When a newspaper publishes a bombshell op-ed, it doesn’t want the chief casualty to be its own credibility.
But this is what has happened with the New York Times and the op-ed it ran by Arkansas senator Tom Cotton … advocating using federal troops to quell riots.
The piece caused a revolt among woke Times staffers, and now the paper has issued a statement saying that the process was rushed and that it’s going to expand its fact-checking operation in response.
The paper hasn’t yet identified any factual errors in the piece, and its statement seems a transparent way to try to climb down from its decision to publish the piece to appease its staff and readers.
The Cotton team has no idea what the Times is talking about. The senator had fairly recently written two other op-eds for the Times. “Each time,” a Cotton staffer says, “the process was rigorous and somewhat onerous, and that was true of this time as well.” …
… After several rounds of back of forth Monday and into Tuesday, Senator Cotton accepted the Times-approved topic. Then, the drafting process began, with the senator finishing the final version late on Tuesday. Around 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Cotton’s office delivered the piece to the Times.
There were at least three drafts back and forth. The Times would send along edits for approval, and the Cotton team would sign off, and then there would be another round.
The first two rounds focused on clarity and style, and the last round on factual accuracy.
Regarding the fact-checking, the Cotton staffer says, “It was pretty rigorous. We were going into the weeds.” They went through each sentence to make sure that it was supported and that the links said what they were represented as saying.