Clark Hoyt Says His Column 'Was Not a Message' For Times Columnists to 'Tone it Down'

On June 22, the Times public editor Clark Hoyt had a few words for the Times’ Maureen Dowd for several primary-season columns that disparaged Hillary Clinton. "Even [Ms. Dowd], I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season."

So two days ago, current Op-Ed columnist (and former editorial page editor) Gail Collins wrote into Mr. Hoyt’s reader’s response column to respond: "When the public editor laces into an opinion page columnist for making fun of a controversial political figure, it sounds like a suggestion that all of us tone things down. I hope I’m hearing wrong."

So was he telling them to tone it down?

"No," he said to Media Mob. "It was a comment on a single aspect of a columnist’s work from a columnist I greatly admire. It was not a message for other columnists to tone it down. If I had meant to say that I would have said it directly."

Then what was the point of Mr. Hoyt’s column in the first place: to express frustration over Ms. Dowd’s specific opinions about Mrs. Clinton? Or for the public editor to muse about the role of a columnist more generally?

"I was dealing with a set of columns and the language in them," he said. "I think it is the public editor’s role to comment on Op-Ed columns when there is either an issue of fact, which there wasn’t in this case, or an issue of tone, which I think there was in this case. It’s not about the opinions expressed. The language in this line of columns was over the top, it was repetitive and it was relentless." Clark Hoyt Says His Column 'Was Not a Message' For Times Columnists to 'Tone it Down'