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15 ways Tom Cotton is awful
And how the press sometimes amplifies his awfulness
Sen. Tom Cotton has been described as “Evil Forrest Gump” because of his Southern accent, his appearance and his politics. But Cotton is a lot smarter than Gump. Scary smart.
He’s a Harvard Law School graduate, and when he lies, it’s not an accident. It’s his brand. Convicted criminal Steve Bannon once said of the MAGA Republican from Arkansas: “Next to Trump, he’s the elected official who gets it the most.” Cotton gets it alright, and he’s giving it to us.
Here are 15 awful things Cotton has said or done, sometimes with the help of the news media.
1. “Send in the Troops”
The police murder of George Floyd in 2020 sparked widespread peaceful protests and some instances of rioting. Tom Cotton pushed for a radical overreaction: He urged Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy the U.S. military against American citizens. And the New York Times helped him make that case, publishing his infamous “Send in the Troops” op-ed. The public uproar was so loud that the Times admitted “the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.” The Times’ opinion editor resigned. And the U.S. military was not called into action.
2. Unnecessary cruelty
In one of Cotton’s pettiest actions, he blocked the confirmation of Cassandra Butts as ambassador to the Bahamas because she was a friend of Barack Obama. Butts said Cotton told her that blocking her nomination was his way “to inflict special pain on the president.” Butts died of leukemia in 2016, still waiting for confirmation after the Bahamas had gone 1,647 days without a U.S. ambassador.
3. “Necessary evil”
In 2020, Cotton actually defended slavery, calling it “the necessary evil upon which the union was built.”
4. Sabotaging foreign policy
In a brazen attempt to interfere with President Barack Obama’s conduct of foreign policy, Cotton wrote a letter to Iran’s leaders in 2015 warning that any nuclear deal they signed with Obama could be revoked by Congress or the next president. Cotton’s letter, co-signed by 46 other GOP senators, was a clear breach of protocol, and some observers thought it even violated the law. But no one was prosecuted. Obama ended up making an Iran deal. Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.
5. Spreading manure
Cotton said in 2014 that "President Obama hijacked the farm bill [and] turned it into a food stamp bill." That’s a big, fat lie. Food stamps have been part of the farm bill since 1973, when Obama was a 12-year-old in Hawaii.
6. Memory wipe
In November 2021, Cotton blamed President Joe Biden for supply-chain shortages, saying “I don’t remember” any such shortages in the first year of the pandemic under Trump. Maybe Cotton didn’t use toilet paper in 2020.
7. Not a Ranger
In Cotton’s first run for Congress, he claimed he served as “a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Not quite. He was never a part of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment but did attend the Ranger School, a two-month infantry course. As Salon explained when it broke the story in 2021, “Soldiers who complete the course earn the right to wear the Ranger tab … but in the eyes of the military, that does not make them an actual Army Ranger.”
8. Deporting the truth
Cotton told the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2021 that Biden “halted deportations for all illegal aliens — murderers, rapists, terrorists, MS-13 gang members are not being deported.” That’s just plain wrong. A Cotton aide later said the senator “misspoke.” The uncorrected video clip is still up on C-SPAN’s site.
9. Mission creep
Cotton tweeted in August 2023 that Biden had “declared ‘mission accomplished’ on inflation.” Biden hadn’t. It was another lie by Cotton.
10. Hotel hoax
Fox News reported last May that homeless veterans were kicked out of New York hotels to make way for immigrants from the southern border. An outraged Cotton tweeted that the action “sums up the Biden presidency.” One problem: It was a hoax. Didn’t happen. Fox corrected its report, but Cotton still hasn’t deleted his tweet.
11. Cotton vs. Cotton
12. Harris’ book
Following reports in the New York Post and Fox News, Cotton posted a tweet in 2021 attacking Biden for “forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris’s book to give to … illegal immigrants.” The reports claimed Harris’ children’s book, “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” was in a welcome kit for migrants in Long Beach, Calif. In fact, a single copy of the book was privately donated, and not paid for by taxpayers. The Post and Fox corrected their stories. Cotton didn’t delete the tweet.
Cotton tweeted three weeks ago: “After the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and a breakout of pro-Hamas activism on campus, the White House is claiming *Islamophobia* is our top concern.” Well, no, the White House didn’t say it was “our top concern.” Cotton was lying as usual. In fact, Biden launched an effort to fight Islamophobia that was similar to a campaign announced earlier in the year to battle anti-Semitism.
14. Only breeders can be leaders
Cotton appeared on Fox to take a cheap shot at American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in 2021. Cotton said Weingarten couldn’t possibly know anything about raising and teaching children because she "does not even have children of her own.”
15. Defending the coup
Cotton said last August that Trump was being prosecuted for “core political activity at the heart of our democracy." That’s an odd way to describe an attempt to steal an election. There’s no logical defense for this view. It’s just Cotton’s fascist ambition.
And yes, we could list many more examples of Cotton’s awfulness. But haven’t we all had enough?