A senator for the state of Arkansas has described slavery as a “necessary evil” on which the American nation was built.
In a local newspaper interview, Republican Tom Cotton said he rejected the idea that the US was a systemically racist country to its core.
He is introducing legislation to ban federal funds for a project by the New York Times newspaper, aimed at revising the historical view of slavery.
The project’s founder expressed outrage at the remarks.
This comes amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota in May sparked huge protests across the US against police brutality and racism.
Protesters and police in the city of Portland, Oregon, have clashed repeatedly in recent days. The confrontations have escalated since a deeply controversial decision by President Donald Trump to send federal law enforcement to the city. Under the US constitution, policing is a matter for individual states, not for the federal government.
Senator Cotton has been a strong critic of the nationwide protests, describing them in an opinion piece for the New York Times as an “orgy of violence” and backing Donald Trump’s threat to use troops to quell unrest.
The article was widely criticised, and more than 800 Times employees signed a letter denouncing its publication, saying it contained misinformation.
The newspaper later apologised, saying the piece fell below its editorial standards. Opinion editor James Bennet resigned as a result.