Here’s the paper’s rationale for publishing the Putin op-ed, according to Times public editor Margaret Sullivan [emphasis mine]:
“There is no ideological litmus test” for an Op-Ed article, [editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal] said. In addition, he said, it is not the purpose of the Op-Ed pages to help or hurt the American government. It is to present a variety of interesting and newsworthy points of view, at least some of which will be contrary to The Times’s own point of view, expressed in its editorials…
Mr. Rosenthal said there was no way of knowing whether Mr. Putin himself wrote the article – “with a public official you can never know,” because they tend to have staffers who write their speeches and other communications. But, he said, it needed virtually no editing and went through almost no changes.
Editors like clean copy. Makes it so much easier on them.
And they like readers. The Times hasn’t seen a whole lot of them lately, and the Putin op-ed fills the bill nicely—nothing like controversy to act as a draw.
The comments to the Sullivan article are edifying, too. Here’s a little sampler, a glimpse into the minds of what might be typical Times readers.
First we have Putin the straight-shooter and crusader against chemical weapons:
After all, we are entering into a partnership with THAT man to deal with Assad’s various and voluminous poisons. Hopefully, Putin will prove useful to us in accomplishing that goal. In doing so, he was not likely to splash us with false praise. He said it like he sees it. Let’s move forward.
Next we have an equivalence between the KGB and the CIA:
I had to smile when noticing one of the reader comments that referenced the fact that president Putin held a key position with the KGB and implied that he could never be trusted. I guess the poster is too young to remember that George H Bush was the director of our very own CIA before being elected president of the United States.
And then there’s the Times in its new role as UN newsletter:
The NYT’s is the worlds newspaper. Maybe putin’s piece will be the start of leaders all over the world voicing their opinions in print.
And a classic misunderstanding of free speech:
People who object to the welcome publication of Putin’s historic statement seeking to keep bombs from falling and nerve gas from being deployed; people who objected to publication of the Pentagon Papers; people who objected to the publication of Wiki-leaks and Snowden’s information look to be opponents of the very basis of the American constitution and democracy–namely, the 1st amendment: FREE SPEECH. It seems to me radically unAmerican to seek to suppress publication of news you don’t like, the words of those you’re condition to hate, and ideas you don’t want others to know about.
There are other comments, of course, that disapprove of Putin and/or the Times. But a quick perusal indicates that the “yeas” seem to dramatically outnumber the “nays.”
What a sorry state of affairs. But we already knew that.