Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweets translation of letter to Iranian foreign minister…who already speaks fluent English

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is at the center of a huge controversy.  He wrote a letter, signed by 46 of his GOP Senate colleagues, to the Government of Iran, urging them not to sign any peace deal with President Obama, as the deal wouldn’t last when President Obama was out of office.

Senator Cotton’s Twitter account then began to tweet translations of the letter to several Iranian officials:

That last tweet was to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, who released comments which discounted the Senate Republican letter as “propaganda,” saying that he was astonished that, “some members of the U.S. Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own president and administration.”  As for the Senators who signed the letter, Zarif said that, “not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.”

Notice something about those comments?  They’re all in English.  And they aren’t translated – Senator Cotton translated a letter for someone who didn’t need it.  Indeed, Foreign Minister Zarif attended high school, college and graduate school in the United States.

The implication of Senator Cotton’s tweet is obvious:  Since Minister Zarif is Iranian, he must not be able to speak English.  That, of course, is completely and totally untrue.

News media was quick to blast Senator Cotton’s tweet. The Islamic Republican News Agency called the tweet “insulting,” saying that it left, “no doubt that the Senator is inexperienced and naive.”  Huffington Post noted that, “Cotton needn’t have bothered with the translation. Zarif is more than capable of reading the Republicans’ letter in English.” Rachel Maddow also joined in the pile on, saying that the unnecessary translation made Senator Cotton look “quite foolish.”

Minister Zarif, who has not tweeted frequently, then tweeted a reply to Senator Cotton…in English:

Numerous Twitter users also caught the mistake:

This was a stupid tweet to send and an unforced error that made Senator Cotton look worse at a time when he, and his colleagues, are already taking significant flack.  It also shows a lack of research – all I had to do was Google Foreign Minister Zarif in order to determine that he did, in fact, speak English and was educated in the United States.  Indeed, you can see from from looking at the responses to Cotton’s tweets that Zarif’s English fluency was common knowledge to many.

Don’t tweet stupid, and don’t tweet lazy.

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