Embattled New York Dem Won't Seek NYT Endorsement Over Cotton Op-Ed

Rep. Eliot Engel / Getty Images
June 4, 2020

In the midst of a far-left primary challenge, Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) said he would not seek the New York Times's endorsement after the paper ran an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) arguing that the military should be deployed to quell riots in cities across America.

Engel announced the decision in a Thursday statement, saying, "any endorsement from an editorial board that supports the publication of such un-American demands" is "not worth the paper it's printed on."

"Because of the opinion column calling for using the military against American citizens on American soil—and the obvious pain it causes for the paper's journalists of color—I have decided not to seek the New York Times endorsement and I call on my opponents in this race to do the same," Engel said. "No U.S. Senator should be calling out the military on the pages of the New York Times. And no real progressive leader can morally accept the paper's endorsement."

Engel is in the closing weeks of a primary challenge from educator Jamaal Bowman, who is backed by the same Justice Democrats group that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a veteran Democratic congressman in 2018. He has faced attacks in the past few months from the far left for his pro-Israel positions. Engel said he is canceling his interview with the Times editorial board and called on "every progressive seeking election in this country" to do the same. Bowman did not respond to a request for comment asking if he would follow suit.

Times staffers, as well as their union, expressed disapproval over the publication of Cotton's op-ed, with some calling out sick in protest. A number of staff writers, as well as senior editor Kwame Opam, said the decision to run the op-ed "puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger" in a barrage of Wednesday tweets. The public backlash from Times staffers comes four months after the paper made the decision to publish an op-ed from Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who once participated in the kidnapping of a Times reporter. The fallout from that op-ed was limited to public criticism from one Times Afghan correspondent.

Editorial page editor James Bennet explained his decision to run the op-ed Wednesday, saying, "Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments, particularly those made by people in a position to set policy." He did not respond to a request for comment on Engel's statement.

Cotton defended his op-ed during a Thursday appearance on Fox News's America's Newsroom.

"These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives," he said. Cotton also commended the Times for publishing the op-ed, saying the paper "stood up to the woke progressive mob in their own newsroom."

Engel declined to comment further on his decision.