Article questions Cotton’s status as a ranger

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WASHINGTON – As a political newcomer in 2012, US Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Exaggerated his military record by campaigning for his first seat in Congress, the Salon.com news site reported in an article. dated Saturday.

During Cotton’s successful 2012 candidacy for the US House, the Dardanelle native repeatedly touted his Army Ranger experience, mentioning this elite status in campaign announcements as well as in interviews, the site said. left line information.

While Cotton attended a two-month course at Ranger School and was entitled to wear a Ranger tag on his uniform, he was only a qualified Ranger and never served in any capacity within ‘an elite Ranger regiment, Salon.com said.

Later Saturday, the Command Sgt retired. Major Rick Merritt, a former regimental sergeant major of the 75th Ranger Regiment, defended Cotton, saying the latter’s statements were correct. Cotton’s spokeswoman suggested Merritt’s interview in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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Salon.com reproduced a May 2012 ad from the Madison County Record, calling Cotton “a combat-tested chef” who “volunteered to be an Army Ranger.”

He referred to a February 2012 Hot Springs Sentinel-Record article, which quoted Cotton as saying, “My experience as a US Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan and my experience in business will put me in very good shape. , not just to vote. Congress for the conservative side, but a leader, someone who can influence my peers and help move a bloc of 15, 20 or 25 votes and help bring the country back in a conservative direction and do that needed for Arkansas and America. “

He was also referring to a Talk Politics interview in September 2011, in which Cotton said, “I joined the military and became an infantry officer and a ranger.”

Cotton also claimed Army Ranger status in subsequent TV campaign commercials, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette review showed.

A 2012 ad, approved by the candidate, begins with a screenshot identifying him as “Tom Cotton” on one line and Army Ranger “on the next.

In an October 2014 campaign ad, he said, “I made some tough decisions as an Army Ranger in Iraq. I will make them again as a Senator.”

Cotton, who now lives in Little Rock, won his 2012 House race against Democrat Gene Jeffress, 59.5% to 36.7%, and his 2014 Senate race against incumbent US Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, 56.5% to 39.4%. He easily won re-election in 2020 against a libertarian opponent.

None of his opponents disputed Cotton’s Army Ranger credentials.

Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Tabler said on Saturday he would not be available for comment on Saturday. Her previous claims about her military service are correct, she said.

“To be clear, as he has said many times, Senator Cotton graduated from the Ranger School, earned the title of Ranger Tab, and went on a combat tour with the 101st Airborne, not the 75th Ranger. Regiment, ”she said in a written statement.

The 101st Airborne is a light infantry division renowned for its air assault operations.

In a statement to the author of the Salon.com article, Tabler wrote: “Senator Cotton is a graduate of Ranger School and is more of a Ranger than a Salon reporter like you will ever be. “

Salon.com has been targeting Cotton for years, posting articles with headlines such as “10 Scary Facts About Tom Cotton” and “Foolish Caucus Chairman: Senator Tom Cotton Proudly Stands at the Vanguard of Republican Obstructionism shameless.”

After the latest article was published, U.S. Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, accused the young Arkansas senator of cheating on people.

Tweeting a photo of an Army Ranger in uniform, Crow wrote: “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you’re wearing one of these berets you shouldn’t call yourself a Ranger. The truth matters. “

After the Salon.com article was published, similar articles appeared on the websites of Rolling Stone, Newsweek, the New York Post and The Independent, a UK-only online newspaper.

The Salon.com article did not dispute other parts of Cotton’s biography: that he decided to serve in the military after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but delayed doing so until what he paid off his student loans; that he led an infantry platoon with the 101st Airborne in Baghdad, and also served in Afghanistan and as a member of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Merritt said in a phone interview that the attacks on Cotton’s record were “so absurd.”

“It’s unfair. It’s almost slanderous,” Merritt said. “He’s 100% a Ranger. … He’ll always be a Ranger.”

“An attack on him is an attack on all veterans who have served honorably,” he added.

Tabler said Cotton did not know Merritt, but offered to respond to Salon.com’s claims.

Reports for more than a decade, including some from before Cotton’s return to civilian life, have called him an Army Ranger.

Articles and sometimes opinion pieces in National Review, Weekly Standard, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Washington Post, and New York Times all referred to him as a former Army Ranger, as did CNN reports. , Fox News and MSNBC.

Cotton’s Senate website biography makes no mention of his status as a ranger.

He says he “served nearly five years in active service in the United States Army as an infantry officer” and that he also “served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and in Afghanistan with a provincial reconstruction team ”.

“In between his combat tours, Tom served with the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Tom’s military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and the Ranger tab, ”he says.

An article from the public affairs department of the 75th Ranger Regiment – https://www.army.mil/article/232124/ten_things_you_didnt_know_about_the_75th_ranger_regiment_part_1 – Note that “[p]People often confuse the 75th Ranger Regiment with the US Army Ranger Course ”and detail the differences.

“The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit tasked with planning and conducting joint special military operations in support of national policies and objectives. The regiment’s senior headquarters is the US Army Special Operations Command located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The regiment is the largest joint special operations force in the United States Army. “

The US Army Ranger Course, on the other hand, is “the primary leadership school for the Army and reports to the Training and Doctrine Command located at Fort Eustis, Va.”

“[O]pen to all members of the military, whether or not they served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, “it’s at Fort Benning, Ga.

“The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its leadership to take the US Army Ranger Course, but this is not a prerequisite for joining the 75th Ranger Regiment or participating in the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. All military professional specialties of infantry and artillery must be completed. the course before assuming a leadership role in the regiment. The 75th Ranger Regiment Rangers in other military occupations can take the US Army Ranger Course when they are ready, ”he said.

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