Controversial Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called slavery the nation’s “necessary evil” in a new interview published Sunday.
The senator told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that slavery was the evil ”upon which the union was built.”
He made the stunning 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 also noted that the “union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
Instead of portraying America as “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” the nation should be viewed “as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind,” he added.
Cotton delved into his twisted view of the history of slavery as he discussed his bill — the Saving American History Act of 2020 — that would cut off federal professional development funds from any school district that teaches a curriculum linked to the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project — which refers to the year slaves were brought from Africa to colonial America — was a series of pieces by writers for the New York Times Magazine that examines the American history of slavery and its critical role in the nation’s founding.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter and director of the 1619 Project, blasted Cotton’s comments justifying slavery, “where it was legal to rape, torture and sell human beings for profit.” It’s “hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end,” she added.
Cotton shot back in a tweet — retweeted by President Donald Trump — that his comments were not “justifying or endorsing slavery” because he claimed to be merely “describing the views of the Founders.”
In his interview with the Gazette, Cotton criticized the 1619 Project as “left-wing propaganda,” and “factually, historically flawed.”
“Even a penny is too much to go to the 1619 Project in our public schools,” Cotton said. “The New York Times should not be teaching American history to our kids.”
If “local, left-wing school boards want to fill their children’s heads with anti-American rot, that’s their regrettable choice,” said Cotton. “But they ought not to benefit from federal tax dollars to teach America’s children to hate America.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.