A Republican Senator for the US state of Arkansas has described slavery as a "necessary evil" on which the American nation was built, the media reported on Monday.
"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," the BBC quoted Senator Tom Cotton as saying in an interview to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper on Sunday.
"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 (Abraham) Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction."
Cotton told the newspaper that he rejected the idea that the US was a systemically racist country to its core, adding that he was introducing legislation to ban federal funds for a project by the New York Times newspaper, aimed at revising the historical view of slavery.
On July 23, Senator Cotton introduced the Saving American History Act, aimed at stopping funding for '1619', the initiative which bases US history teaching around the first arrivals of slave ships in the US in August of that year.
The project won the Pulitzer prize for commentary for its founder, the New York Times journalist Nicole Hannah-Jones.
Responding to Senator Cotton's legislation, Hannah-Jones tweeted that if slavery was justified as a means to an end, anything else could be too, the BBC reported.
Cotton has been a strong critic of the nationwide anti-racism protests, describing them in an opinion piece for the New York Times as an "orgy of violence".
Cotton's comments received a lot of hate on Twitter with a Texas-based filmmaker saying, "Tom Cotton is an unnecessary evil. He should resign."
Tom Cotton said slavery was a "necessary evil." Congratulations, Republicans. This is what you have become.— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) July 26, 2020
Tom Cotton saying that slavery was a "necessary evil" sounds a helluva lot like Nazis who justified their heinous crimes by saying "I was just following orders."Evil is NEVER necessary.— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) July 26, 2020
Tom Cotton says slavery was a “necessary evil” to build America. Strong disagree there, Tom. Seems like, in retrospect, we shoulda tried building this place without perpetrating our own Holocaust.— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) July 26, 2020
Tom Cotton issuing a public statement claiming slavery was a "necessary evil" is exactly why The 1619 Project is so important, why our votes are so important -- because white supremacy, in all its genocide and other horrors, is excused away as "necessary".— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) July 26, 2020
The article was widely criticised and the newspaper later apologised, saying the piece fell below its editorial standards.
Opinion editor James Bennet resigned as a result.
The development comes amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota in May which has sparked huge protests across the US against police brutality and racism, said the BBC report.
( with IANS inputs )