After Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) office confirmed this month that it occasionally sends constituents cease and desist letters, one Arkansas resident shared his attempts to learn the Senator’s position on two issues close to his family, which he said ended in Cotton’s staff sending the him a cease and desist letter.
Don Ernst, a resident of Little Rock, shared his story at length with “The Sexy Pundits” podcast in an episode that aired Monday. He said that he called Cotton’s office in February 2017 to ask about the senator’s position on the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and to ask about Cotton’s plans for addressing the opioid epidemic in the event that Obamacare was repealed.
Ernst said he has a son battling opioid addiction, making Cotton’s stance on how to address the opioid crisis particularly important to his family.
The Arkansas resident told the podcast that he called Cotton’s office 18 times between February and June 2017 to ask for the senator’s position on the two issues, but staffers told him that the senator’s stance was not readily available and indicated they would look into his questions.
“It’s excruciating not to get an answer to questions that impact people you care about and you love,” Ernst said on the podcast.
Ernst confirmed to TPM that he called Cotton’s for months without getting an answer from the senator’s staff. He told TPM that he suspects that at times he raised his voice.
“Certainly, as each call happened, I think I began to get more emotional,” he told TPM.
But it was the 18th call that got him banned from phoning into the senator’s office again, according to Ernst.
On that call, Ernst told a staffer that it was “bullshit” that he could not get answers on IDEA and the opioid crisis, and he said that staffer abruptly hung up the phone. He called back immediately and a different staff member informed him that they would send him a cease and desist letter.
Ernst said he never actually received the letter in the mail and hasn’t seen it to this day, but he told TPM that a Capitol Police official confirmed to him over the phone later that the letter had indeed been sent.
After he was notified of the cease and desist letter, Ernst sent a letter to Cotton’s office, which he shared with TPM. He apologized for “for an emotionally driven expression of the word (sh_ _t).”
“I should have never used such language with one of your young staffers, and it was understandable that she expressed concern to her supervisors. I offer my apology with sincerity,” he wrote.
Cotton’s office confirmed earlier this month that it does send cease and desist letters to constituents, but claimed that they are rare.
“Senator Cotton is always happy to hear from Arkansans and encourages everyone to contact his offices to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In order to maintain a safe work environment, if an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication. These letters are rare and only used under extreme circumstances,” Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Rabbitt Tabler said in a statement earlier in January following the first reports that the office sent cease and desist letters to constituents.
TPM asked Cotton’s office for confirmation that it sent a cease and desist letter to Ernst, but did not receive a response. TPM also reached out to the Capitol Police for confirmation but has not yet received a response.
Cotton’s office has issued a cease and desist letter to at least one other constituent.
Stacey Lane, a Fayetteville resident, told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette that she got a cease and desist letter when she used the f-word with a member of Cotton’s staff.
“Have I used expletives? Yes,” Lane said. “I like to think I use them appropriately and to get people’s attention.”