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Clyburn: Tom Cotton should be ‘ashamed of himself’

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, said Monday that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) “ought to be ashamed of himself” after penning a controversial op-ed in The New York Times calling for the U.S. military to put down rioting in American cities sparked by the death of George Floyd.

“Cotton is from Arkansas. He ought to be ashamed of himself,” Clyburn said at a news conference where Congressional Black Caucus members and other Democrats unveiled sweeping reforms to combat police brutality and other racial disparities experienced by African Americans. 

Clyburn challenged Cotton to read “Unexampled Courage,” a 2019 book about Isaac Woodard, a black World War II veteran who was brutally assaulted and blinded by South Carolina police officers hours after he was honorably discharged in 1946.

“He was taken off a bus in Batesburg, South Carolina, by a deputy sheriff; he was in his uniform. And that deputy sheriff took his billy stick and punched his eyes out,” Clyburn said. “And that has been the foundation upon which law enforcement in many parts of this country have been established.”

Cotton’s opinion piece, titled “Send in the Troops,” triggered a fierce backlash from Democrats and many of the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets to draw attention to police brutality after a Minneapolis officer knelt on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes before he died two weeks ago.

While a majority of the protesters have been peaceful, some agitators have smashed windows of businesses, set buildings and cars on fire and provoked fights with police. Looting has taken place in New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle and other cities.

“These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives. Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further,” Cotton wrote in the Times

“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers. But local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup, while delusional politicians in other cities refuse to do what’s necessary to uphold the rule of law,” he continued.

After internal criticism from readers and some Times journalists, the newspaper added an editor’s note to the Cotton essay, saying it “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.”

Editorial page Editor James Bennet, who admitted he had not read the piece before it was published, apologized to the staff on Friday. But the fallout continued over the weekend, and by Sunday, Bennet had resigned.

Cotton, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said the revolt at the newspaper shows that “woke children” now run the Times newsroom.

“But let’s be clear, this all goes back to the publisher and his unwillingness to stand up to a bunch of 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds who were raised on social justice seminars on our campuses,” Cotton said on Fox News on Monday. “They need to behave like grown-ups, not like children, who are confronted with an opinion that they don’t like.”

Tags Column George Floyd Jim Clyburn New York Times Protests Tom Cotton

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