The tectonic restructuring capped a week of turmoil inside the nation’s paper of record, with staff engaging in debate over the publication of Cotton’s op-ed and grilling The Times’ leadership over the process that led up to it.
“While this has been a painful week across the company, it has sparked urgent and important conversations,” Sulzberger wrote employees in the memo announcing the changes.
Cotton’s piece, published Wednesday with the title “Send In the Troops,” argued the Insurrection Act could be invoked to deploy the military across the country to assist local law enforcement with unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The op-ed was published in The Times’ opinion section, but staffers from both opinion and the newsroom — which operate separate from one another — publicly dissented.
Bennet initially defended running the op-ed, but later said his section was wrong to have published it and blamed a break down in the editorial process for the blunder.
Sulzberger’s announcement that Bennet would depart stunned staffers, people familiar with internal conversations at The Times told CNN Business.
One Times staffer said the episode had prompted meaningful conversations about systemic racial biases and diversity inside the newsroom. The person said such conversations have gone deeper than simply ensuring a diverse staff and have been about larger issues regarding race and The Times’ role in society.
At a town hall with employees on Friday, Sulzberger and Bennet both said that the op-ed process was inadequate for the current moment and had structural problems, a person who was on the call told CNN Business.
Bennet’s tenure had been marked by a series of high-profile blunders.
The Times’ opinion section was left reeling in September after it fumbled a story about an allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
And last April, the opinion section apologized after publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition.
The latest debacle resulted in criticism from Republicans who contended that the newspaper was exhibiting bias against them.
Cotton sharply criticized The Times for saying his op-ed didn’t meet its standards, noting that Bennet had initially defended the op-ed. Cotton told Fox News the newspaper had caved to a “mob of woke kids.”
“My op-ed doesn’t meet the New York Times standards,” Cotton said. “It far exceed their standards which are normally full of left-wing, sophomoric drivel.”
President Trump on Sunday responded to the news by attacking the newspaper in a tweet.