Founder of Error-Ridden ‘1619 Project’ Slams Lack of Fact Checking in Cotton Op-Ed

Prominent historians criticized her own work for "errors and distortions"

• June 8, 2020 4:00 pm


"1619 Project" founder Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose seminal essay was updated to address factual errors, said Sunday that a New York Times-commissioned op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) calling for the United States military to quell riots did not undergo appropriate fact checking.

"Senator Cotton certainly has the right to write and say whatever he wants in this country, but we as a news organization should not be running something that is offering misinformation to the public unchecked," Hannah-Jones said on CNN's media-affairs show Reliable Sources. "Yes, we do absolutely believe that his views should be aired … but that's a different thing altogether than simply allowing someone to say things that are not true."

Hannah-Jones said Cotton's op-ed did not go through "the normal fact-checking process that anyone making such claims should go through."

The Times, after initially defending its publication, said Cotton's article was not properly edited and should not have been printed. It said Cotton's claims about the role of the left-wing radical group antifa in recent unrest and the level of recent violence against police were unsubstantiated. It also said Cotton's tone was "needlessly harsh."

Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her initiative examining the legacy of slavery in American history, but the "1619 Project" has come under fire for multiple inaccuracies.

Despite the objections of historians, Hannah-Jones has stood by her assertion that American revolutionaries were motivated primarily by a desire to defend the institution of slavery, a claim that was ultimately subject to a lengthy clarification. One historian who helped fact-check the "1619 Project" said the Times ignored her objections about it.

In the seven months between the article’s publication and the Times’s clarification, five prominent historians demanded that the paper retract "all the errors and distortions" it contained, a move the Times has resisted.

Hannah-Jones was one of dozens of Times staffers who expressed fury last week over the publication of Cotton's essay, writing in a tweet that she was "deeply ashamed" of her employer.