Arkansas Senator and potential 2024 presidential hopeful Tom Cotton called slavery America's “necessary evil” in a new interview published Sunday causing mass condemnation and general disgust across social media.
The Republican senator on Sunday told local paper Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that slavery was the evil ”upon which the union was built.” Provoking fierce backlash, Cotton made the shocking comment while discussing how slavery should be taught in schools.
“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.”
Cotton is thought to be a likely 2024 Republican presidential contender due to his unusually high profile as a first-term senator.
He is a hard-liner on immigration, Iran and most recently China, including suggesting that the coronavirus may have originated in one of that country’s secret labs.
“Cotton is out there every night, and he’s winning the Fox GOP primary for 2024,” Scott Reed, a political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Associated Press.
This comes after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minnesota in May sparked huge demonstrations across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racism.
Cotton is certainly no stranger to controversy; in an widely condemned opinion piece for The New York Times he called these protests an "orgy of violence" as he backed President Donald Trump's threat to use troops to quell the unrest.
Instead of portraying America as “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” the US should be viewed “as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind,” he said in the interview published on Sunday.
Backlash to these comments was immediate and palpably angry.
Charles Booker, a politician who was until recently in a Democratic Senate race in Kentucky, said that "Tom Cotton should resign" over his comments.
Many other echoed this sentiment and were disgusted at his rhetoric.
Others were not so shocked that this was part of Cotton's belief system. One user tweeted, "I am eternally grateful that people like Tom Cotton are so bad at hiding their true selves."
Cotton of course called the backlash "fake news" and insisted his words were taken out of context.
Sam Stein, a prominent journalist, seemed to see through this. "Cotton’s gonna try and spin this as him merely quoting the founding fathers," he tweeted. "But it is pretty evident that he’s also embracing that description too."