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Cotton Says Slavery Was A ‘Necessary Evil’ As He Targets NYT-Based School Curriculum

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) aired his grievances over a school curriculum based on the New York Times’ “1619 Project” initiative in an interview published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Sunday, going so far to argue that slavery was a “necessary evil” in the country’s history.

On Friday, Cotton introduced legislation that would prohibit federal tax dollars going toward school curriculums based on the NYT’s initiative, which seeks “to reframe American history” by highlighting how the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores in 1619 and therefore that year should be recognized “as our nation’s birth year.”

The school curriculum, intended for primary and secondary schools, resulted from a partnership between the Times and the nonprofit Pulitzer Center.

In his interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Cotton accused the 1619 Project of being “racially divisive” as he doubled on his vehement opposition to removing Confederate names, monuments and symbols from military sites.

Cotton then added that he can’t tolerate “angry mobs tearing down statues of anyone” before going on to argue that slavery was a “necessary evil” in the country’s history.

“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.”

Cotton griped that the U.S. has been portrayed as “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” which he views “as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind.”

Cotton’s efforts to target the Times comes a month after he faced backlash for his “Send in the troops” op-ed published in the newspaper as protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death roiled the country. The Times’ publication of Cotton’s op-ed led to the resignation of then-editorial page editor James Bennet. The Times later issued an editor’s note saying that Cotton’s op-ed had fallen “short of our standards and should not have been published.”

Cotton also ripped into the Times on Saturday in a tweet that references the newspaper’s editor’s note on his op-ed.

TPM reached out to Cotton’s office for comment. We will update this post if we hear back.

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