Tom Cotton under fire for comments on slavery

Tom Cotton under fire for comments on slavery

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is coming under fire for recent comments he made about the U.S. history in which he cited the Founding Fathers as saying slavery was a "necessary evil."

"Slavery was not a necessary evil. It was a crime against humanity — anchored in kidnap, rape, torture, lynching as the systemic oppression and enslavement of people of African descent century after century after century and we’re still living with its legacy today," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, on the House floor Monday.

Jeffries, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also tweeted, "It was a Crime Against Humanity. History. Lesson. Over."

Jeffries was referring to comments Cotton made in an interview with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday, which was published Sunday in a story about his efforts to target an initiative by The New York Times. The initiative, the 1619 project curriculum, proposes that schools reframe U.S. history by marking the nation’s founding as 1619, the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia. Cotton, however, told the newspaper that he’s proposing legislation that would withhold federal funding to schools that embrace the curriculum.

"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. 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 said in the interview.

It's unclear exactly who or what Cotton was citing as calling slavery a necessary evil.

Another member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., tweeted Sunday that Cotton should either correct his statement and apologize or resign from Congress.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., responded to his GOP colleague on Monday in a tweet.

"Necessary evil" suggests slavery was worth it. Millions of white people achieved prosperity, so it's ok millions of Black people were bought, sold, raped, whipped? Let me be clear, slavery was not necessary in any context—& absolute evil in every context,” he said.

Cotton on Sunday rejected the characterization of his comments, however, and called the reports about the interview "fake news."

"This is the definition of fake news," he tweeted. "I said that *the Founders viewed slavery as a necessary evil* and described how they put the evil institution on the path to extinction, a point frequently made by Lincoln."

Originally published