Timeline of Madison Cawthorn controversies
Rep. Madison Cawthorn ( R-N.C.) has been a lightning rod for controversy.
The 26-year-old freshman lawmaker, who was elected to represent North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the vacant seat left by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in 2020, has been at the center of a series of scandals in the lead-up to his primary on May 17.
This year alone, he has alleged to have been invited to orgies in Washington and said he saw people do cocaine, prompting a stern rebuke from senior House Republicans. He’s been cited for bringing a firearm to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint in Charlotte and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “evil” in a video. And Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Wednesday called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into Cawthorn over allegations of insider trading.
The mounting controversies come as the eight-way Republican primary for his seat ramps up.
Here’s a list of his controversies since he was elected to Congress in November 2020.
Jan. 6, 2021: Speaks at ‘Stop the Steal’ rally ahead of Jan. 6 insurrection
Cawthorn attended the Jan. 6, 2021, “Save America” rally, which former President Trump also addressed ahead of the attack on the Capitol. The rally was organized as part of an effort to challenge the 2020 election results based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
At the event, Cawthorn said, “This crowd has some fight in it. … The Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.”
“We’re not doing this just for Donald Trump, we are doing this for the Constitution,” he added.
Feb. 5, 2021: Says he does not regret speaking at the Jan. 6 rally
Cawthorn said in February 2021 that he did not regret speaking at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally ahead of the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol, saying the rioters were “unable to check their worst impulses and had very little self-control.”
In an interview on “The Carlos Watson Show” shared with The Hill, Watson, co-founder and CEO of media company OZY, asked Cawthorn if he had any second thoughts about his participation after looking at the violence that took place at the Capitol, which resulted in the death of five people.
“I don’t regret it, actually, Carlos,” Cawthorn said. “Obviously, I think what happened on Jan. 6 was despicable. I thought it was conducted by weak-minded men and women who are unable to check their worst impulses and had very little self-control. Completely condemn it.”
“But when I did go speak at that rally, I was specifically trying to get across to the people that, ‘Hey, I am in Congress, I am going down to the Capitol right now to speak on your behalf,’” he added in the interview.
Aug. 30, 2021: Calls jailed Jan. 6 rioters ‘political hostages’
He described those in law enforcement custody for allegedly storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory as “political hostages” while reiterating false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen.”
Cawthorn made the remarks during an event in August 2021 that was streamed on Facebook by the Macon County Republican Party.
“I’ll tell you, anybody who tells you that Joe Biden was dutifully elected is lying,” Cawthorn said. Cawthorn later raised the threat of political violence if people continue to believe that elections are “stolen.”
“If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, it’s gonna lead to one place, and it’s bloodshed,” said Cawthorn.
Luke Ball, a spokesman for Cawthorn, said that the lawmaker “wants due process for the prisoners” and “was not advocating for any form of illegal action, only that they receive full due process.”
Feb. 1, 2022: Sues over the effort to disqualify his reelection bid
Cawthorn in February filed a federal lawsuit against members of the North Carolina State Board of Elections over the effort to disqualify him from running for reelection because of his involvement in the rally that took place soon before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
He called the challenge, filed by 11 members of the body in January, “unconstitutional.”
“Running for office is not only a great privilege, it is a right protected under the Constitution,” Cawthorn said in a statement. “I love this country and have never engaged in, or would ever engage in, an insurrection against the United States.”
Feb. 2, 2022: Insults Biden over troop deployment
He called President Biden an “inept, geriatric despot” in a speech on the House floor in February, two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He was criticizing the U.S. deployment of 3,000 troops to Eastern European allied countries.
“Madam Speaker, the sons and daughters of America are not foot soldiers for your party’s inept, geriatric despot. They are not expendable pawns to be dispatched at the whims of an idiot, tossed carelessly around the world to Godforsaken caves and bloody sandboxes. They are Americans, worthy of honor and dignity. The only salute from them Joe Biden deserves involves one finger,” he said.
March 9, 2022: Charged with driving with a suspended license
Cawthorn was charged with driving with a revoked license after being pulled over in March by highway patrol.
The Asheville Citizen Times reported that Cawthorn was facing three citations for incidents that took place in three counties in North Carolina. Cawthorn previously has two pending citations for speeding.
He was previously charged with driving after having his license taken away in 2017, but incidents took place before he was elected to the House. The maximum sentence for driving without a license issued is 20 days in jail, although violators get a fine or probation instead of jail time.
March 2022: Calls Zelensky a ‘thug‘
Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and said the Ukrainian government was “evil” in a video published by North Carolina station WRAL.
“Remember that Zelensky is a thug,” Cawthorn said in the undated recording. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”
A spokesperson for Cawthorn did not answer questions about when or where the comments took place when reached for comment by The Hill but sent a link to a tweet the congressman posted.
Cawthorn’s tweet linked an article called “World War Reddit” where he said “Propaganda is being used to entice America into another war. I do not want Americans dying because emotions pushed us into a conflict.”
March 28, 2022: Makes claims about orgies in Washington
The Hill reported that Cawthorn frustrated his GOP colleagues after he appeared on the “Warrior Poet Society” podcast and said that scenes from the Netflix television drama “House of Cards” was not far from reality.
“All of the sudden you get invited to, ‘Well, hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come.’ … You realize they are asking you to come to an orgy,” Cawthorn said. He said that he has seen those who advocate against addiction doing “key bumps of cocaine.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) later said Cawthorn did not have evidence to back up his statements on the parties. McCarthy said the explanation for the cocaine allegation was that “he thinks he saw maybe a staffer in the parking garage from 100 yards away.”
“This is unacceptable. There’s no evidence to this,” McCarthy said. “That’s not becoming of a congressman. He did not tell the truth.”
April 12, 2022: Hit with allegations from secretly recorded phone calls
A former district staff member accused Cawthorn of improperly firing her after she alleged she was denied family and medical leave, both accusations the lawmaker and his office have denied.
Lisa Wiggins, who was a caseworker for Cawthorn and worked in his district office for over a year, described that office as having “more liquor bottles than they do water bottles” in a call, the report added.
However, Cawthorn’s office implied that the allegations, made in the secretly recorded and released conversation with an anti-Cawthorn PAC, were politically motivated.
April 22, 2022: Seen wearing lingerie at apparent party in leaked photos
Politico obtained and published undated photos of the North Carolina Republican in women’s lingerie at a party.
While Cawthorn acknowledged the photos in a tweet, he shared they were from a vacation on a cruise and were taken before he ran for public office.
“I guess the left thinks goofy vacation photos during a game on a cruise (taken waaay before I ran for Congress) is going to somehow hurt me?” Cawthorn said.
“They’re running out of things to throw at me,” he added.
April 26, 2022: Found with loaded gun at checkpoint in Charlotte
Cawthorn was caught trying to bring a loaded gun through a TSA checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in April. The citation has been classified as a “weapon law violation.”
Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), in a letter, asked TSA to take action against Cawthorn for his incident involving a firearm at an airport checkpoint. They urged the TSA “to act decisively to ensure repeat offenders like Cawthorn face the full extent of TSA’s enforcement actions.”
April 27, 2022: Tillis calls for investigation over insider trading allegations
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) called for an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into allegations that Cawthorn violated federal insider trading laws.
“Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation. There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee,” Tillis tweeted.
A Washington Examiner report, citing multiple watchdog groups, said that Cawthorn may have violated insider trading laws in the course of his support for the “Let’s Go Brandon” cryptocurrency.
Tillis has come out in support of a primary challenger to Cawthorn, state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R), in recent weeks.
April 27, 2022: Says ‘establishment’ is hitting him with ‘coordinated drip campaign’
Cawthorn has since accused the “establishment” of launching a “coordinated drip campaign” against him as the battle for his seat in the Republican primary heats up.
“They’re going to drop an attack article every one or two days just to try and kill us with a death by 1,000 cuts, and that is really their main strategy,” Cawthorn said.
He said that “statistically, it’s virtually impossible to beat an incumbent member of Congress after they won their first reelection.” And said that was why “you’re starting to see this coordinated attack” against a lot of the first-term members of Congress who “are hardcore conservatives going up for reelection across the country.”
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