Sen. Tom Cotton has introduced legislation that would strip funding from any public school district that adopts The New York Times’s 1619 Project to teach slavery to students. In a searing speech on the Senate floor, Cotton slammed the Pulitzer-winning project as a historically-skewed piece of propaganda meant to teach kids that America was founded on racist values that persist today.
If Cotton was trying to draw attention to yet another liberal attempt to brainwash our nation’s children, however, he managed to step on his own message in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette this weekend. In the interview, Cotton was somewhat careless in characterizing the views of the Founding Fathers, giving the left all the ammunition they need to dismiss him (and, by extension, anyone who criticizes the 1619 Project) as a racist apologist for slavery.
“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.”
By putting it this way, Cotton gave the impression that he was personally saying that slavery was a “necessary evil,” even though that’s not what he meant. He was merely characterizing the opinions of Thomas Jefferson and others who wrote critically of the institution while still participating in it.
Nonetheless, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the architect of the 1619 Project, seized the opportunity to go after Cotton as a racist.
“If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit — were a ‘necessary evil’ as @TomCottonAR says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end,” she tweeted.
In a statement, Cotton’s press secretary said the senator’s remarks were being misconstrued.
“As his quote makes clear, that view was held by some founding fathers,” Cotton’s office said. “Reporting to the contrary is politically motivated and dishonest.”
In his own tweet, Cotton wrote: “This is the definition of fake news. 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.”
Well, Cotton knows as well as anyone that the media will run away with any slip of the tongue, no matter how obvious it is. Knowing that, it’s up to him to be more careful with his words. Yes, it’s unfair, but that’s the way it is.