How the Media, the Right, and the Center Created a Common Enemy that Scares Them More Than Trump
The raucous 2020 departure of James Bennet as editorial-page editor at the New York Times roared back into the news two weeks ago.
Bennet, who is employed as a senior editor and columnist at The Economist, admitted in an interview that when he apologized in June 2020 for publishing an incendiary op-ed by Tom Cotton at the Times, he was lying.
Bennet, he says now, wasn’t sorry at all.
Instead, he claims he was the victim of the Times publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who, Bennet says, “set me on fire and threw me in the garbage.” Bennet also faults his former Times coworkers, some of whom criticized the piece on Twitter, for shunning him: “I had what felt like all my colleagues treating me like an incompetent fascist.”
But Bennet was feeling so singed at the time that he nonetheless approved a lengthy editor’s note that said the piece “fell short of” Times standards. He now says he did so only to “mollify people.” The piece evidently met his own standards just fine.
In the Washington Post, Bennet’s former colleague Erik Wemple said of the editor’s apologia that “a more pathetic collection of 317 words would be difficult to assemble.”
Wemple then expressed contrition for failing to defend Bennet from the blowback to the Cotton op-ed that coursed through Twitter timelines.
Wemple and others were especially bothered by one tweet that got repeated and retweeted: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.” This assertion, Wemple wrote, was “an exercise in manipulative hyperbole brilliantly calibrated for immediate impact.”
(But A.G. Sulzberger set Bennet on fire and threw him in the garbage!)
I don’t find the editor’s note world-historically pathetic, and I especially don’t find the tweets about “danger” hyperbolic. My chief complaint about the editor’s note is that it didn’t suggest that any serious audit of “Send in the Troops” had been done. I’ll do my own in a minute.