Republican senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas called slavery "necessary evil upon which the union was built." Cotton is seen as a Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
Cotton's insensitive remark
Sen. Cotton made the comment about slavery in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that was published on July 19. He was interviewed regarding the legislation that he introduced on July 23 that aims to prevent the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project is an initiative from the New York Times that reframes US history around August 1619, and it also includes information about the arrival of slave ships on American shores, as reported by The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Sen. Cotton introduced the Saving American History Act of 2020 and it would prevent the use of federal funds to teach The 1619 Project by schools districts or K-12 schools, according to the statement released from the office of the senator.
Cotton told the Democrat-Gazette that the whole premise of the New York Times project, which he said was historically flawed, is that America is a systemically racist country and that it is irredeemable.
Cotton added that he rejects that the project will give the idea that America is the root and branch of slavery and that America is a "great and noble" country that is founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. He also said that even though America struggled to live up to the proposition, there is no other country that had done more to make the proposition come true.
Sen. Cotton stated that the history of slavery needs to be studied and that its impact and its role on the development of America needs to be researched because otherwise America will be misunderstood.
Cotton also quoted America's Founding Fathers who said that "it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built."
Pulitzer Prize winner, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who did an introductory essay to the 1619 Project said on July 24 that Sen. Cotton's bill speaks to the power of journalism more than anything they have ever done in their career.
On July 26, Hannah-Jones tweeted that if the whole premise of slavery, which were rape, torture and selling human beings for profit, were necessary evil, it is difficult to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.
Hannah-Jones added that black children should not be taught that the buying and selling of their ancestors, the torture, forced labor and rape that their ancestors had gone through was "necessary evil" for the creation of the "great and noble" country.
Sen. Cotton then responded that what Hannah-Jones tweeted were "lies" from the debunked 1619 Project. He said that describing the views of the Founders and how they put the institution on a path to extinction is not endorsing or justifying slavery, and it was a point made by Abraham Lincoln.
In June, the Times was forced to issue a mea culpa after publishing an op-ed written by Cotton and entitled "Send in the troops".
The article, which drew widespread criticism, advocated for the deployment of the military to protests against police brutality toward black Americans.
Send in the troops
In June, Times published an article written by Sen. Cotton titled "Send in the troops." The article drew criticism as it advocated for the deployment of US military to protests in the country against systemic racism and police brutality.
The publisher AG Sulzberger from Times defended Time's decision and said that the paper was committed to represent views from both sides.
However, they released another statement saying that the article fell short of their editorial stands, and it lead to the resignation of James Bennet, the editorial page director.