May 1, 2024 - News

Sen. Cotton calls college campus protests "little Gazas"

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks with members of the media on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton speaks with members of the media. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton led a group of fellow GOP senators Wednesday in denouncing pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses.

Why it matters: Republican congressional campaign arms are already cutting footage and are ready to launch ads slamming vulnerable Democrats for not condemning the campus protests that have erupted over Israel's war in Gaza.

The escalating tension in recent days has put a spotlight on one of the most sensitive and divisive issues within the Democratic Party.

What they're saying: "These little Gazas are disgusting cesspools of antisemitic hate full of pro-Hamas sympathizers, fanatics and freaks," Cotton said in a press conference Wednesday.

"Every university and every student has the right to be able to speak their mind to be able to test out new ideas," said Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford, also a Republican.

  • "But when you're talking about screaming at Jewish students, and rabbis [are] saying no longer is this university a safe place for you to be, it violates the very principles that all these universities supposedly stand for."

Reality check: No encampments or sit-ins have been reported at Arkansas or Oklahoma college campuses.

College campuses with reported encampments or sit-ins related to the war in Gaza
Data: Axios research; Note: Universities with joint encampments reported separately; Locations approximated for clarity; Map: Kavya Beheraj, Tory Lysik and Will Chase/Axios

Flashback: Cotton took to X last week, encouraging "people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands."

What we're watching: The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism in its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

  • "That's a bill we should promptly bring to the floor and pass over here, as well," Cotton said.

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