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Sen. Tom Cotton during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in May. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) defended on Twitter comments he made in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, published Sunday, on the enslavement of Black people in the U.S.

Driving the news: "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 told the paper. "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."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Context: Cotton made the comments while discussing a bill he introduced last week specifically seeking to prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the New York Times' 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts.

"The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable. I reject that root and branch. America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it."
— Cotton's remarks to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
  • Following criticism from historians and other leading figures online, Cotton denied that he was calling the enslavement of Black people a "necessary evil," tweeting: "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."

What they're saying: Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her introductory essay to the NYT project, was among those to address Cotton's comments, saying: "Imagine thinking a non-divisive curriculum is one that tells Black children the buying and selling of their ancestors, the rape, torture, and forced labor of their ancestors for PROFIT, was just a 'necessary evil' for the creation of the 'noblest' country the world has ever seen."

  • After Cotton defended his remarks, she replied: "Were the Founders right or wrong ... when they called slavery a 'necessary evil upon which the Union was built”? Because either you agree with their assessment of slavery as necessary or you admit they were lying and it was just an evil and dishonorable choice. Which?" He has yet to respond to that tweet.

Of note: A June op-ed by Cotton in the Times, which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" to quell protest unrest, prompted the paper to change its editorial board processes and state that the article failed to meet its standards.

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

7 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.