US Republican Senator Tom Cotton in an interview described slavery as a "necessary evil" and rejected the premise that "America is at root, a systematically racist country to the core and irredeemable."
His statement comes as he attacked a New York Times' project which aims to explore the role of racism and slavery has played in the US, and which has been adopted by some schools as part of their curriculum.
Cotton opposes NYT's '1619 Project'
Tom Cotton opposed the project and has introduced a bill in the Congress that would cut the federal funding to the schools that have used it for teaching children.
Criticising the Times project, Cotton said, "The New York Times's "1619 Project" is a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded."
"Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage," The American Independent reported him saying.
What is '1619 Project'?
The Times' "1619 Project" was conceived as a wide-ranging examination of the 400 years of slavery since the start with the arrival of the first enslaved African people in Virginia, US.
At the time of its launch last year, the Times had said that the project was meant to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."
The project's creator journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones had won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for her essay on it.
The jury had praised her "sweeping, provocative and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America's story, prompting public conversation about the nation's founding and evolution."
Since its launch, the project has been adopted by at least five school systems for use in their curriculum.
Many Republicans criticised '1619 Project'
Now, Tom Cotton wants to punish the schools that have used the Times' "1619 project" by stripping federal funding.
Defending his stand, Cotton said, "We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it."
He continued, "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. 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," BI reported.
Project's creator hit back
However, his statement didn't go well with the Project's creator, who hit back at him and tweeted:
"If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit — were a 'necessary evil' as @TomCottonAR says, it's hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end," Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote.
Some historians also objected to his claim and questioned whether any of the Founding Fathers described slavery as a "necessary evil."
Cotton subsequently said he had been describing "the views of the Founders," rather than citing them as part of his own argument.