Tom Cotton Drops the Hammer on NYT, Exposes Liberal Media After Disastrous Election Predictions


After yet another mainstream media failure of accurately describing the state of the nation heading into a presidential election, journalists like the New York Times columnist David Brooks were forced to acknowledge just how badly their profession is failing at its chief job.

“Our job in the media is to capture reality so that when reality voices itself, like last night, people aren’t surprised,” Brooks wrote in a Twitter post. “Pretty massive failure. We still are not good at capturing the rightward half of the country.”

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton probably noticed David Brooks wasn’t really looking for answers — he’s the kind who rarely is, for the unfamiliar. Cotton gave one anyway.

Republicans, Dem Senator Revolt, Hit Back at Schumer for Changing Dress Code for Fetterman

“Maybe don’t fire your editor for publishing conservatives,” he wrote in response.

When Cotton — with only one telling comment — took The Times, David Brooks and the rest of the media to task for getting it so spectacularly wrong for the second presidential election in a row, some readers might not have been aware of the history behind his remarks.

For the uninitiated, I’ll handle it in (mostly) reverse order.

The New York Times front page, Nov. 5, 2020: “Tensions Rise as States Release More Results in Tight Race”

Do you think the mainstream media will ever recognize its own bias?

We were advised the 2020 election could drag on for days — months, even. Given the exigencies of 2o2o and several near disasters during the primary season (remember the Iowa caucuses), there were fears the United States Postal Service or local boards of elections wouldn’t be able to effectively handle the vote.

How smoothly that process went will be discovered in the days and weeks to come. For the most part, the country seems to have avoided the kind of train wreck some (myself included) feared would happen in terms of getting ballots in and getting them counted. The reason it’s dragging on is — lo and behold — all of those outlier pollsters who said this was a close race were right. Again.

From pre-election polls, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In its final pre-election analysis, the RealClearPolitics average had the Democratic nominee Joe Biden with  a 7.2 percent national lead over President Donald Trump. Yet again, the polling industry missed — both nationally and in swing states — by a relatively wide margin.

The former vice president still had the clearer path to the presidency as of Thursday morning, but it was never supposed to be this tight. Don’t just take my word for it, though.

Rock Bottom: CNN Tallies Its Lowest Key Demo Ratings Ever Recorded

The New York Times, Nov. 2, 2020: “What Trump Needs to Win: A Polling Error Much Bigger Than 2016’s”

From The Times’ Nate Cohn, a national correspondent who focuses on polling and demographics:

“If the polls are right, Joe Biden could post the most decisive victory in a presidential election in three and a half decades, surpassing Bill Clinton’s win in 1996,” he wrote. “That’s a big ‘if.’

“The indelible memory of 2016’s polling misfire, when Donald J. Trump trailed in virtually every pre-election poll and yet swept the battleground states and won the Electoral College, has hovered over the 2020 campaign. Mr. Biden’s unusually persistent lead has done little to dispel questions about whether the polls could be off again.

“Pollsters would have far fewer excuses than they did for missing the mark four years ago. Mr. Trump’s upset victory was undoubtedly a surprise, but pollsters argued, with credibility, that the polling wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed.”

Then Cohn claimed that there were a few reasons history wouldn’t repeat itself.

First among them?

“The national polls show a decisive Biden win. Four years ago, the national polls showed Mrs. Clinton with a lead of around four percentage points, quite close to her eventual 2.1-point margin in the national vote. This year, the national polls show Mr. Biden up by 8.5 percentage points, according to our average. The higher-quality national surveys generally show him ahead by even more.”

Cohn’s output for The Times and on Twitter has been prodigious over the past 72 hours, so he hasn’t found the time for a mea culpa yet.

That’s what we have this guy for:

New York Times columnist David Brooks, Nov. 4, 2020, on Twitter:

Brooks is a dishwater liberal kept on The Times’ payroll so the hopelessly biased “newspaper of record” has a nominal conservative on staff. Some things are so obvious, however, that even Brooks can get them right. No conjectures from him at the reasons behind this phenomenon, however — which is curious, because I could have ventured a guess at one.

Cotton had one ready to go.

Thanks to a column Cotton had published on The Times opinion pages in early June, and the aftershocks that followed it, the senator has had a unique view of the Gray Lady’s operations. And they’re not pretty.

The New York Times, June 3, 2020: “Tom Cotton: Send In the Troops”

The New York Times, June 7, 2020: “James Bennet Resigns as New York Times Opinion Editor”

The New York Post, July 31, 2020: “New York Times union wants ‘sensitivity reads’ as part of editorial process”

In the early days of the unrest touched off by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, The Times published a Cotton opinion piece arguing that the circumstances called for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and send in federal troops to restore order.

Cotton, not incorrectly, pointed out “the rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.”

“These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives,” Cotton wrote. “Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further.”

The reason the federal government was needed to keep the peace, Cotton wrote, was due to “delusional politicians in other cities [who] refuse to do what’s necessary to uphold the rule of law.” He also noted the Insurrection Act had been used in situations like the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“Not surprisingly, public opinion is on the side of law enforcement and law and order, not insurrectionists. According to a recent poll, 58 percent of registered voters, including nearly half of Democrats and 37 percent of African-Americans, would support cities’ calling in the military to ‘address protests and demonstrations’ that are in ‘response to the death of George Floyd.’ That opinion may not appear often in chic salons, but widespread support for it is fact nonetheless,” Cotton wrote.

For even allowing this line of thought into the paper, New York Times opinion page editor James Bennet was forced out.

“At an all-staff virtual meeting on Friday, Mr. Bennet, 54, apologized for the Op-Ed, saying that it should not have been published and that it had not been edited carefully enough,” The Times reported. “An editors’ note posted late Friday noted factual inaccuracies and a ‘needlessly harsh’ tone. ‘The essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published,’ the note said.

No amount of abasement will save you after those sorts of judgment calls these days, however, and Bennet “resigned” two days later.

“Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote in a note to Times staff, the newspaper reported.

Then Sulzberger dropped this line in an interview with one of his own reporters: “Both of us concluded that James would not be able to lead the team through the next leg of change that is required.”

One can venture a good guess as to who concluded that first.

There’s a certain irony in Sulzberger’s line of action inasmuch as he didn’t learn from Bennet’s example that the beast of the mob, once awoken and woked, isn’t so easily sated. A month later, the News Guild of New York — which represents 1,200 New York Times employees — laid out a number of ways to make the paper “more diverse and equitable” after an emergency meeting called in the wake of Cotton’s column.

Among them? “Get it right from the beginning: sensitivity reads should happen at the beginning of the publication process, with compensation for those who do them,” the union recommended.

What the union, and liberals who agree with it, are ignoring is that the “publication process” has safeguards built into it already — with the most important being the public to actually read what is being published.

In short, if you didn’t like the headline on the Tom Cotton piece, you didn’t have to read it. If you started to read it and found it distasteful, you could stop at any point before your sensitivities were hurt too badly. Every step of the way is in the reader’s control — and those who would be offended had no reason to expose themselves to its thoughts.

The union, obviously, was making a different — and more dangerous — point.

Its implication was that, by even airing the views of an influential politician at an inflection moment in recent American history, The New York Times would incite either the White House or the president’s rabid, mouth-breathing base toward violence.

On the last count, one might wonder where they got the idea that the president’s followers were pliable idiots in flyover country who’d listen to anything Dear Leader said.

The New York Times, Oct. 3, 2019: “Why Trump Voters Stick With Him: An imagined conversation with Flyover Man,” by David Brooks

Brooks wrote this fictional, not-entirely-Socratic dialogue between Urban Guy (anti-Trump) and Flyover Man (pro-Trump) in the aftermath of the Ukrainian whistleblower report.

Urban Guy: I hope you read the rough transcript of that Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president. Trump clearly used public power to ask a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponent. This is impeachable. I don’t see how you can deny the facts in front of your face.

Flyover Man: I haven’t really had time to look into it. There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture.

The big picture is this: We knew this guy was a snake when we signed up. But he was the only one who saw us. He was the only one who saw that the America we love is being transformed in front of our eyes. Good jobs for hard-working people were gone. Our communities in tatters. Our kids in trouble. I had one shot at change, so I made a deal with the devil, and you’d have made it, too.

It got worse from there, although I’ll spare all the details except for Flyover Man’s closing argument: “Here’s a confession. I used to think Trump was a jerk. Now, after three years of battle, I see him as my captain. He deserves my loyalty, thick and thin. See ya’ in hell, brother.”

David Brooks, a year, a month and a day after that column was published: “We still are not good at capturing the rightward half of the country.”

Most in the mainstream media, alas, are deprived of the same in-person newsroom experience that would allow them to take stock of why that is, the way they should have in 2016. However, David Brooks has:

a) The contact information for Kathleen Kingsbury, the acting editorial page editor at The Times who replaced Bennet when he was unceremoniously thrown under every bus at Grand Central Station for daring to publish Cotton piece; and

b) A mirror.

Both of those are fruitful places to start if Brooks wants some answers as to why the media got President Trump’s level of support wrong yet again.

If he has any questions, he can ask Tom Cotton.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , , , , , ,
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture