Republican Tom Cotton is coming under fire after he made a reference to slavery as a “necessary evil,” citing a view he believed had been held among some of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
The Arkansas senator made the controversial remark in an interview with Arkansas Democrat Gazette, where he expanded his attack on the 1619 Project from The New York Times that explored the use of slaves in the United States and suggested that the enslavement of people from Africa was one of the most important aspects of the birth of the nation. The Republican senator has been a vocal critic of the initiative, which has come under dispute by some historians for its assertions.
Cotton called the project “racially divisive” and said that he opposes efforts to remove Confederate names and monuments from military sites. He went on to cite an argument from the founders of the United States that the enslavement of African people was needed in the early days of the country.
“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country,” Cotton said. “As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
Critics saw Cotton’s statement as an endorsement of the view of the early leaders, slamming the Arkansas Republican.
As Talking Points Memo reported, Cotton responded to the controversy by issuing a statement saying he was not agreeing with the assertion, merely saying that it was seen that way by those that shaped the American government. Many pointed out that Cotton’s sentence construction made it seem as if he agreed with the statement, while others pointed out that he was incorrect in the assertion — many of America’s founders fully embraced the use of slaves, and there is no evidence that they called it a “necessary evil.”
Tom Cotton says slavery was a “necessary evil” to build America.
Strong disagree there, Tom.
Seems like, in retrospect, we shoulda tried building this place without perpetrating our own Holocaust.
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) July 26, 2020
FWIW, and pace Dingus Tom Cotton, no one at the constitutional convention or really at any other part of the creation of the American Republic said slavery was necessary to get the country off the ground but then later we'd get rid of it. No one.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 26, 2020
“Slavery was a necessary evil.”
~ Tom Cotton
This is what happens when we let a member of the GOP run uncontested.
— Chip Franklin (@chipfranklin) July 27, 2020
“Cotton’s gonna try and spin this as him merely quoting the founding fathers as describing slavery as a ‘necessary evil.’ But it is pretty evident that he’s also embracing that description too,” tweeted reporter Sam Stein, as seen here.
As The Inquisitr reported, Cotton had already stirred controversy on Friday by introducing legislation that would pull federal funding for any school district that chooses to teach the 1619 Project in classrooms.
Cotton is running largely unopposed in November, with his Democratic opponent dropping out of the race and third-party candidates not expected to garner much support.