Republican Sen. Tom Cotton was accused of embellishing his military service record over the weekend by a far-left publication stating that Cotton had falsely claimed to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The partisan publication Salon stated that the Republican senator “felt compelled to repeatedly falsify that honorable military record” by “claiming to have been ‘a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ and, in a campaign ad, to have ‘volunteered to be an Army Ranger.'”
“In reality, Cotton was never part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the elite unit that plans and conducts joint special military operations as part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command,” the article stated. “Rather, Cotton attended the Ranger School, a two-month-long, small-unit tactical infantry course that literally anyone in the military is eligible to attend. Soldiers who complete the course earn the right to wear the Ranger tab — a small arch that reads ‘Ranger’ — but in the eyes of the military, that does not make them an actual Army Ranger.”
In addition, Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, who formerly served in the Ranger Regiment, tweeted at Cotton with a picture of himself in the regiment's specific beret: “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”
Crow himself is no stranger to controversy, having previously lied about Trump’s involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, among other allegations. Breitbart ran several fact-checks of his claims, calling into question the Congressman’s relationship with the truth.
Following the Salon hit piece on Sen. Cotton, top military officials and combat veterans defended Cotton’s service in the military.
Retired General Raymond A. Thomas III, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) condemned Crow for the tweet, stating: “First, wear your beret correctly. Second, you are a Congressman now, act like it. This is a dumb debate (feel pretty qualified to say that). Need you to focus on more important things for the good of the nation. You and @SenTomCotton get together and work like ‘Ranger buddies.'”
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, a former regimental Sergeant Major of the 75th Ranger Regiment described attacks on Cotton as “absurd,” in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Retired Army Colonel Kurt Schlichter described Crow’s attack as a “blue falcon move,” tweeting “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Weighing in, combat veteran Sean Parnell stated that if a soldier earns his ranger tab and wears the tab on his shoulder, that makes him a Ranger. He added that there are only two ways to qualify as a Ranger, one of which is to either graduate from the Ranger school, as Cotton did, or serve in a Ranger unit in combat.
The Dispatch senior editor David French, former major in the U.S. Army Reserve, defended Cotton, stating: “On Tom Cotton’s military service — He was a Ranger-qualified and led troops in combat. When I served I heard Ranger-qualified soldiers described as ‘Rangers’ all the time. Cotton’s service was brave and honorable. He’s described his service fairly and accurately. Move on.”
Conservative outlets were not the only voices to speak up in defence of Cotton’s military service record. The Washington Post’s Hugh Hewitt described the attacks as “purposeful slander.” New York Times journalist Nick Confessore stated that “some people are a-holes” about people who try to argue “who’s a real Ranger.”
In an appearance with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Cotton was asked about the attacks on his service record.
“Yes, thanks, Bret. I graduated from the Ranger school,” Cotton said in response to Baier. “I wore the Ranger Tab in combat with 101st Airborne in Iraq. This is not about my military record; this is about my politics.”
“Ranger regiment legends like General Scottie Miller or General Craig Nixon have used the term to describe both alumni of the Ranger Regiment and graduates of the ranger school, as did the secretary of Army, as did most of my buddies in the Army, as did most of the liberal media until a conservative veteran was using the term that way,” Cotton added. “But if some people disagree, that’s fine. I respect their views. But what’s most important, I respect the service of all rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteered to serve our country.”