Creator of the NYT's Heavily-Criticized 1619 Project Says Tom Cotton's Op-Ed Shouldn't Have Run 'Unchecked'

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Posted: Jun 08, 2020 11:30 AM

Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created The New York Times 1619 Project that was criticized by historians as being historically inaccurate, told CNN on Sunday Sen. Tom Cotton's op-ed in the paper should not have been run "unchecked" because it was inaccurate.

The 1619 Project initially claimed one of the primary reasons for the American Revolution was the colonists wanting to keep their slaves. The Times had to issue an "update" and changed the wording to "this was a primary motivation for some of the colonists."

Cotton's op-ed, where he called for the American military to be brought into cities to stop the looting and rioting that had been occurring in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, sparked outrage within the Times because the employees falsely claimed he wanted the military to be used against peaceful protesters.

Hannah-Jones told CNN host Brian Stelter that Cotton's opinion should be heard, but it should have been in a context where he could have been fact-checked.

"Well, free speech is not that I, as a sitting senator or I as someone sitting in my living room, has the right to run my opinions in The New York Times unedited and unchecked. That’s not what free speech is. Senator Cotton certainly has the right to write and say what he wants in this country, but we as a news organization should not be running something offering misinformation to the public unchecked," she said.

"Yes, we absolutely believe his views should be aired. That is necessary. We know someone with this power thinks this way. But that’s a different thing altogether than simply allowing someone to say things that are not true, to make assertions that might be unconstitutional without a check," she continued. "Many of us journalists said there should have been a news article where his views were aired but in a way that was factual because we know we are struggling with Americans getting this information and our role as journalists is to give people correct information so they can make decisions."

Stelter said his initial reaction to the op-ed was that Cotton was overreacting to the rioting and looting. While many states brought in their National Guard units to help local law enforcement, President Trump had members of the active-duty military on standby near Washington, D.C. after the city experienced its own mayhem.

Despite the initial inaccuracies that stood for months in her 1619 Project, Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work.