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Cotton defends call for Insurrection Act, assails 'child mob' at NYT

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices MORE (R-Ark.) on Friday defended his controversial op-ed published last year by The New York Times calling for the deployment of federal troops to quell social unrest across the country and assailed his critics at the paper as “social justice warriors” and a “child mob.”

Cotton resurrected the controversy, which resulted in the resignation of New York Times opinion editor James Bennet, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting of conservative activists and an important forum for potential Republican White House hopefuls.

Cotton took aim at what he called “wokeness” and “cancel culture” in defending his op-ed calling on then-President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy federal troops to restore order amid protests, social unrest and riots across the country sparked by high-profile incidents of police brutality.

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“Conservatives should never apologize for backing the blue,” he said, referring to law enforcement officers. “Whether it’s a child mob at The New York Times or a social media mob or an actual mob in our streets, we will never bend the knee to a politically correct mob ever.”

The publication of Cotton’s piece in June caused a backlash and the departure of Bennet from the paper after Times staffers wrote a letter to management asserting that it had “undermine[d] the work we do” and “violate[d] our standards for ethical and accurate reporting for the public interest.”

Times staffers said publishing an op-ed “that appears to call for violence” and “promotes hate” would jeopardize “our journalists’ ability to work safely and effectively on the streets.”

Cotton on Friday said it was “a total meltdown with the little social justice warriors at The New York Times.”

“All these children had been marinated in the language of the campus seminar room. They said things like, ‘Your words put my life at risk.’ As if typing on their phones, sitting on their futons was as dangerous as being caught trying to stop rioters in the streets,” Cotton said. 

“Or ‘Your words are violence.’ No, I’m sorry kiddo. Words are words. Violence are what your friends are doing out on the streets of America,” he added.

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Cotton was referencing protests in the summer of 2020, most of which were focused on issues of racial justice following police killings of Black people. The vast majority of the protests and the protesters were peaceful, though there were violent episodes and instances of destruction of property.

The Times’s editors later appended a note to Cotton’s op-ed saying they had concluded the essay fell short of the paper’s standards and should not have been published.

Cotton mocked that decision Friday.

“Of course the New York Times editors, they caved and rolled over and they apologized. They said my work didn’t meet their standards,” he said.

“That’s one time I actually agreed with The New York Times, my work did not meet their standards. It far exceeded their normally lousy standards,” he added to loud applause.

“Some people on the left even called me to apologize so let me say again, I will never apologize for defending America,” he said.

Cotton in his June op-ed argued federal troops were needed to back up outnumbered police officers who were attacked in New York state, Las Vegas and St. Louis.

“These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives,” he wrote.