There is an ongoing controversy sparked by an article in Salon indicating that Senator Tom Cotton lied about being an Army Ranger in describing his military service. Roger Sullenberger’s salon article alleged that Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton felt “compelled to repeatedly forge this honorable military record.” It’s an accusation that borders on a stolen valor claim and couldn’t be more offensive, especially to someone with a highly respected military service record. The article was condemned as unfair and inaccurate by conservative websites such as National Review as part of a smear campaign, but also by veterans.
Ironically, the Rangers regimental motto is the Latin phrase sua sponte, or “by itself”. There seems to be a debate about whose consent controls such issues.
Cotton volunteered for service and was hired as a lieutenant. He served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq and was promoted to first lieutenant. He also served in Afghanistan. He received a Bronze Star, two Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Ranger Tab, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal and an Iraq Campaign Medal.
In the past, false or exaggerated military records of political claims have been made. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Repeatedly claimed he served in Vietnam while serving on a Marine Reserve unit that was never sent overseas. In a May 2008 article, Blumenthal claimed, “When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the ridicule, verbal and even physical abuse we encountered.” This claim is ambiguous.
However, Cotton not only went to ranger school and received a ranger badge, he also went to battle. Cotton received his ranger badge and then served in the 101st Airborne Division. As a nut to military history, I have discussed the Screaming Eagles in previous columns as one of the most famous and revered forces in United States military history. Cotton fought with one of the most elite units in the world. He never claimed to have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Instead, he claimed that he had “volunteered as an Army Ranger” and referred to himself as a ranger on occasion. Sullenberger claims that this does not make him an “actual Army Ranger,” but this is not a view that some other rangers share. There is no balance in the item. Such opposing views surfaced in the coverage after the Salon article.
The Arkansas Times interviewed Sergeant Major Rick Merritt, who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment and denounced the premise of Salon’s article as “absurd,” “unfair,” and “almost defamatory.” Conversely, Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, criticized Cotton for calling himself an Army Ranger and tweeted a picture of a ranger in uniform saying, “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless They were wearing one of those berets. You shouldn’t call yourself a ranger. The truth is important. “
The National Review takes this claim apart and finds that veterans insist that Cotton was a ranger. In addition, it was found that major publications referred to ranger school graduates as well as Cotton as rangers. In particular, critics pointed out that Newsweek Cotton struck after the salon story, but used the same description in 2015 of graduates from the school who did not serve in the actual Ranger regiment. Instead of changing its criticism of Cotton, Newsweek quietly changed the 2015 article to remove the reference to a ranger.
The Military.com website states, “The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete their own eight-week selection process. After completing the course, soldiers are allowed to wear a distinctive light brown beret with their uniform. “Cotton enrolled in the US Army Ranger School, an approximately eight-week leadership course in light infantry tactics. While Salon dismissed school as a course that “literally anyone in the military can take,” wrote military.com
To be clear, service in the 75th Ranger Regiment or graduation from the Army Ranger School are significant achievements. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operating unit nor attended ranger school, both of which are physically and mentally demanding tasks. No one has to be considered for the other – the only exception is that the leaders of the 75th Ranger Regiment, such as B. Assigned officers who have to graduate from ranger school.
That seems unfair to me. Salon as a long history of such hits pieces, especially against cotton. For example, the Arkansas Times has previous articles titled “10 Scary Facts About Tom Cotton” and “Chairman of the Fool’s Caucus: Senator Tom Cotton Proudly Speaks Shameless Republican Obstructionism”. This latest article had the right to be used by an internet mob to suggest some kind of stolen valor: “Sen. Tom Cotton advocated his “Army Ranger experience” – but he had none. This was a man who received his ranger badge but served in an elite airborne division. The headline makes it sound like he’s back in the States with the fleet. Usually this type of problem would warrant a bracket in a profile piece.
I have no problem addressing this issue. In fact, I find it interesting. This seems to have been a longstanding debate. In all honesty, I don’t understand why Cotton didn’t just identify as an Airborne with the Screaming Eagles, which is a huge distinction. The salon piece, however, is typical of the weird and sensational reporting that is common in publications today. Articles are designed to delight audiences in our isolated media where people don’t expect their own prejudices to be confirmed. These left and right sides add to the anger and division of the country.