Sen. Tom Cotton visits Iowa, decries critical race theory and efforts to defund the police

By: - June 29, 2021 8:38 pm

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, spoke to a group of Sioux Center Republicans on June 29. (Screenshot of Iowa GOP livestream)

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, headlining a state GOP event in northwest Iowa, decried “critical race theory” and accused Democrats of fostering a crime wave before ending the night in a push-up contest against Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Cotton is the latest in a string of possible 2024 candidates to travel the Hawkeye State. He joked at the onset of Tuesday’s event that he wouldn’t pander to Iowans, though he noted that his wife had been born in the state.

“I’m the only one who loves you so much that I married a girl born in Iowa,” Cotton told a crowd of Republicans gathered at a classic car museum in Sioux Center.

In his opening remarks, Cotton spoke on several of the issues addressed by Iowa’s Republican majority in the 2021 legislative session. He condemned “critical race theory,” arguing that Democrats were trying to inflame racial tensions in schools.

“If we let the left indoctrinate an entire generation of our kids to hate America, what will we have gained?” Cotton asked the crowd.

He also spoke in support of police officers and in opposition to rioting during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Cotton emphasized that Republicans would continue to support law enforcement, in opposition to activist calls to defund the police.

“I know that we Republicans, here in Iowa and across the country, will always back the Blue,” Cotton said to applause.

Cotton alleged that Democrats had heralded a “crime wave of unprecedented proportions” with lenient crime policies and proposals to defund the police. 

The Pew Research Center reported in late 2020 that violent and property crime rates had fallen by 47% and 55%, respectively, from peaks in the early 1990s.

Cotton was the subject of widespread controversy during last summer’s protests because he advocated for sending in military forces and giving “no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” In the military, “no quarter” means refusing to show mercy to an opponent, even when the opponent surrenders.

In a controversial New York Times opinion piece that ultimately led to the resignation of a Times editor, Cotton said rioting related to protests should be met with “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.”

In addition to Tuesday’s appearance, Cotton is using his Iowa trip to launch the “Veterans to Victory” program, an initiative to elect more Republican veterans to Congress. Cotton has used the program to endorse and help raise campaign funds for U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an Army veteran representing Iowa’s 2nd District.

In a video announcing the project, Cotton said he’s supporting “veterans who won’t bend a knee to the woke mob” and “veterans who will stand up against open borders and critical race theory.”

Cotton 44, and Grassley, 87, each did 22 push-ups on stage at the end of the program in what a Grassley campaign tweet described as a display of support for veterans.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.