Sen. Tom Cotton commended The New York Times on Thursday as the publication faced a backlash prompted by carrying an opinion piece the Arkansas Republican wrote in support of deploying the military to U.S. cities where chaotic scenes have emerged from unrest sparked by the recent killing of George Floyd.
Appearing on Fox News, the senator at the same time slammed Times reporters who criticized the publication’s decision to release his op-ed Wednesday, entitled “Send in the Troops.”
Mr. Cotton, an Army veteran who sits on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, made the remarks while responding to an outcry that erupted after the Times published his article calling for President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 so that soldiers can aid law enforcement to quell unrest triggered by Floyd’s killing in police custody.
The Times and Mr. Cotton both quickly came under fire over the op-ed, including by reporters at the newspaper and a workers union that represents them, the NewsGuild of New York.
“His message undermines the journalistic work of our members, puts our Black staff members in danger, promotes hate and is likely to encourage further violence,” NewsGuid said in a statement issued in response to the op-ed later Wednesday.
Mr. Cotton subsequently gave kudos to the Times for publishing his editorial, albeit not without calling out reporters at the newspaper who took issue with it.
“I think it once again exposes the hypocrisy of all these woke progressives who claim to defend liberal values, but as soon as they’re presented with an opinion with which they disagree, they go into meltdown; they demand censorship; they refer to words as violence; they call for firings at their newspaper,” Mr. Cotton said on Fox News.
“I will commend the New York Times leadership. We obviously don’t agree on very much, but in this case they ran my opinion piece with which they disagreed and they’ve stood up to the woke progressive mob in their own newsroom,” Mr. Cotton said the “America’s Newsroom” show.
Mr. Trump said Monday he may invoke the Insurrection Act to send troops to cities where acts of looting, arson and other violent crimes have exploded following Floyd’s death.
Floyd, who was black, died May 25 after a white member of the Minneapolis Police Department kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as two other officers restrained him and another looked on. All four officers involved have since been fired from the force and charged with crimes in connection with Floyd’s killing. Protests against racism and police brutality have since taken place across the country, including in some cities brazen acts of robbery arson and vandalism have erupted as well and prompted the president to threaten military intervention.
“There is both a legal basis and long historical precedent for using our National Guard and, if necessary, federal troops, to put down domestic violence,” Mr. Cotton while defending his op-ed Thursday morning. “And, in fact, it is the constitutional duty of the federal government to protect the states from this kind of insurrectionist violence.”
James Bennet, the editor of the Times editorial page, defended publishing the senator’s op-ed on Twitter afterward.
“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous. We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate,” he tweeted.
Attorney General William P. Barr said Thursday that 51 arrests for violent rioting have been made nationwide amid the unrest, meanwhile.