U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton‘s alibi for slavery in the course of attacking the New York Times’ 1619 Project and plans to teach it in schools keeps on giving him grief.


The Daily Show take is funny (be sure to stay for the Tom Cotton Lesson Plan for Slavery and also his Lesson Plan for the Civil Rights Movement), but it also makes the point that Cotton’s explanation supported rather than demolished the central premise of the 1619 Project. The country’s founding preserved slavery and its supporters used that toil for decades with negative effects that linger today.

Cotton has said it was the Founding Fathers’ belief, not his, that slavery was a “necessary evil” that would lead to its (theoretical) extinction in about a century and after a war.


It is fake news when Cotton says he was misquoted. Cotton was quoted accurately by the Daily Show and many other critics. Yes, he quoted the founders (perhaps inaccurately some have suggested). But if he was not defending their choice to preserve slavery and its supposed salubrious effects, what was he doing?

Among other developments on a day when Tough Talking Tom turned tail and ran from his own words:


CENSURE: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called for Cotton’s censure.

The leaders of the nation’s leading civil rights and racial justice organizations today issued a statement calling on the members of the U.S. Senate to condemn Sen. Tom Cotton’s remarks on slavery and issue a formal censure. These leaders and their organizations are:

  • Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

  • Melanie L. Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

  • Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

  • Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

  • Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

  • Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP

  • Al Sharpton, Founder and President, National Action Network.

They quoted him accurately, too, by the way. And they said:

It is inexcusable for a member of the United States Senate to use the word “necessary” when referring to any aspect of the indefensible institution of slavery.

The Senate must formally censure Sen. Cotton on the basis that his words are “reprehensible” and are contrary to “acceptable norms of ethical conduct in the Senate.” Further, they are words that bring the modern Senate into “dishonor and disrepute.”

Sen. Cotton’s words are even more reprehensible because they were uttered during a period of national grief following the passing of Congressman John Lewis.  Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to the civil and non-violent pursuit of civil rights of all people. Sen. Cotton’s words can only be viewed as diminution of the Senate’s efforts to honor Congressman Lewis’ life’s work in the Civil Rights Movement and in the United States Congress.

GENEALOGY: And then there was some web genealogical research into Cotton. Searching for ancestral hypocrisy following controversial utterances has become popular on the web — anti-immigrant politicians who spring from immigrants, for example. The sleuths think they found a Confederate soldier and slave owner in Coton’s family tree.


I can’t substantiate that, though the research illustrates how much history is out there for the looking, quickly, in the Internet age. But I also won’t venture far into sins of forefathers. My ancestors include Confederate soldiers. To the best of my knowledge, those I’m most familiar with didn’t own slaves. They were hardscrabble types. On the whole, I’d prefer not take a deep dive to find out otherwise, whatever explanation my forefathers might have offered.