At the age of just 25, Madison Cawthorn became the youngest member to ever serve in the House of Representatives by defeating Donald Trump-endorsed Lynda Bennett and Democrat Moe Davis in the general election in a battle for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down during a 2014 car accident, reportedly falsely labeled Bennett as “Never Trumper” (via Politico), but was quick to get back into then-President Trump’s good graces, saying that he didn’t believe the election had been “a referendum on the president’s influence” (via CNN).
After his stunning win, Cawthorn let America know what the new youth of American conservatism had to say by tweeting, “Cry more, lib.” When asked about the tweet on CNN, Cawthorn said it was aimed at “cancel culture and really the extremes on both ends,” but that would “absolutely” take the tweet back if he could. At the time of this writing, the tweet is still up.
As we discuss the shady side of Madison Cawthorn, we’ll address a number of details about the conservative firebrand that are sure to raise eyebrows. Let’s take a look.
Madison Cawthorn took a trip to see Hitler's vacation house
In 2017, Madison Cawthorn posted a series of photos from The Eagle’s Nest, a house used by the Nazi Party and vacation home for Adolf Hitler. His Instagram caption states that visiting the “house of the Führer” had “been on my bucket list for awhile.” This was brought to light during his Congressional run and his opponent quickly pounced. “Hitler’s vacation retreat is not on my bucket list,” Moe Davis tweeted. While not outright calling a white supremacist and white nationalist, Davis told CNN that if you “put all the pieces together, it paints a pretty clear picture of someone that’s at least comfortable in that environment.”
Cawthorn blasted Davis, accusing him of “pushing conspiracy theories” and labeling every conservative a Nazi. “His suggestion that I, a man in a wheelchair, would celebrate a regime that would have had me exterminated is offensive to every thinking person in western North Carolina,” adding that made Davis’ “bigotry even more repulsive,” said in a statement to CNN.
The Republican newcomer then tweeted that the media attention of this was “another fake news controversy,” and posted a photo of American World War II soldiers at The Eagle’s Nest. “When our soldiers were photographed at the Eagle’s Nest in 1945 they were clearly celebrating the Allies triumph over one of the greatest evils in human history. They weren’t celebrating evil; they were celebrating their victory over evil,” he wrote.
Did Madison Cawthorn lie about his accident?
On April 3, 2014, Madison Cawthorn and his friend Brad Ledford were returning to North Carolina from a Florida spring break trip when, according to court documents (via Justia), “Ledford fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a concrete barrier.” Leford survived unharmed, but Cawthorn, who was asleep with his feet on the dashboard, was left paralyzed from the waist down. While speaking at Patrick Henry College in 2017, Cawthorn claimed that Ledford left him to die “in a fiery tomb” and that he was “declared dead.” However, in his deposition, Cawthorn admitted he “had no memory of the accident” and the Florida Highway Patrol report stated he only “incapacitated” and not dead (via The Washington Post).
In an interview with The Washington Post in 2021, Ledford said, “It hurt very badly that he would say something as false as that. That is not at all what happened. I pulled him out of the car the second that I was able to get out of the car.” He stated that Cawthorn told him privately that his insurance claim battle made him say “crazy things” that he “didn’t believe anymore.”
During an interview with People, Ledford has an idea why Cawthorn might be adverse to clearing the air publicly: “I guess he hasn’t maybe made a public statement yet [about the truth about the crash] because he doesn’t want to go back on it or prove that he was falsely speaking before? I don’t know.” Cawthorn’s team did not respond when People reached out.
Do parts of Madison Cawthorn's backstory not add up?
“Madison was homeschooled in Hendersonville. He received a full ride ROTC scholarship to NC State and was also nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy by Rep. Mark Meadows in 2014,” Madison Cawthorn’s official government site states. “Madison’s plans to serve in the U.S. military were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.”
However, in his sworn deposition in 2017 against Ledford’s insurance company obtained by AVL Watchdog, Cawthorn states he was rejected by the Naval Academy prior to his accident. As AVL Watchdog reported in 2020, the documents read, “The lawyer asked Cawthorn: ‘[A]t some point in time, you were notified by the Naval Academy that you did not get in?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ Cawthorn replied. The lawyer continued: ‘Was it – it was before the accident?’ Cawthorn answered: ‘It was, sir.”
Cawthorn, who was then a candidate at the time, did not reply to requests from the publication to clarify his claims. Instead, his campaign press secretary, Angela Nicholas, replied, “we will get you something as soon as it is ready.” At the time of this writing, Cawthorn has yet to make a public statement about the irregularity in his Naval Academy story.
Madison Cawthorn accused a white journalist of hating white people
During Madison Cawthorn’s campaign, he attacked journalist Tom Fiedler for fact-checking his claims and favoring his opponent, Moe Davis. In a now defunct website, Cawthorn accused Fielder of “quitting his academia job in Boston to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.” That dog whistle was a little loud.
According to WRAL, Fielder said Cawthorn’s campaign had attacked him previously for “being biased against Mr. Cawthorn because Mr. Cawthorn is a white candidate.” Fielder said it’s just part of the job. “It’s basic journalism,” he said. “When a candidate of any kind presents herself or himself to the public in a particular way, the role of a journalist is to actually check it out.”
In a statement obtained by WRAL, Cawthorn said that “the syntax of our language was unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker,” but he doubled down in campaign-speak. “Unlike my opponent, who continues to defend calling for violence against his political opponents, I’m willing to correct language that doesn’t convey my intended meaning,” he said. “My intended meaning was, and is, to condemn left-wing identity politics that is dangerous and divisive. I have condemned racism and identity politics throughout my campaign.”
Before the Capitol riot, Madison Cawthorn noted the crowd's 'courage'
On Dec. 21, 2020, Madison Cawthorn announced his plan to challenge Joe Biden’s victory when Congress convened on the now infamous day of Jan. 6, 2021. “The right to vote in a free and fair election is the cornerstone of our Republic. Attempts to subvert the Constitutional authority of state legislatures to conduct elections strikes at the very heart of representative government. I choose to stand in the breach, to fight for us,” he tweeted.
Cawthorn also attended a Turning Point USA event in December and told the attendees to “call your congressman and feel free — you can lightly threaten them” (via The New York Times). He added, “Say: ‘If you don’t support election integrity, I’m coming after you. Madison Cawthorn’s coming after you. Everybody’s coming after you.'”
On the day of the Stop the Steal rally, Cawthorn addressed the crowd a little over an hour before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. “My friends, the Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,” Cawthorn told the audience, per a transcript provided by Spectrum News 1. “I just rolled down from the Capitol building about two miles away down Pennsylvania Avenue. And I will tell you, the courage I see in this crowd is not represented on that hill.”
After the Capitol riots, Madison Cawthorn called those involved 'disgusting and pathetic'
Madison Cawthorn quickly pivoted after fallout from the Capitol riots made international headlines. A day after the siege took place, he told Smoky Mountains News that the attack on the Capitol was “the closest I’ve ever been to 9/11” and called the people who participated “disgusting and pathetic.” He added that “you’d have to be pretty ignorant to say” Donald Trump’s rhetoric at the Stop the Steal Rally didn’t play a role in what transpired. He also claimed that he was contesting the election results not because of voter fraud, but was going to prove “that the Constitution was definitely subverted and circumvented.”
During an interview with New York Magazine, Cawthorn was at a loss for words about what happened at the Capitol. “In hindsight,” Cawthorn went on, “you know, I wish I could’ve … uhh … if I could, you know … I probably would’ve … obviously … knowing what happened later in the day … I wish I would’ve been like, ‘Just so you know, we are peaceful protesters.’ ”
But the damage had already been done. George Erwin Jr., a former North Carolina sheriff who endorsed Cawthorn, publicly stated that he regretted ever supporting him (via The Hill). “You can’t talk about [how] you support Blue Lives Matter and support the blue when you are firing up people who are harming law enforcement officers,” he said. “Once a word leaves your mouth you can’t take it back in.”
Madison Cawthorn then blamed antifa for the Capitol riots
A day after the Capitol riots took place, Madison Cawthon seemingly denounced the Donald Trump supporters who attempted to siege the government building. “Last night, I spoke out in defense of our Constitution and a fair electoral process. I also unequivocally denounced the violence that took place in our nation’s capitol it wasn’t patriotism it was thuggery. We are all Americans. What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he tweeted.
The day before, however, Cawthorn appeared on The Charlie Kirk Show and blamed antifa for secretly embedding “agitators” into the crowd of Trump faithful. “I believe that this was agitators strategically placed inside of this group — you can call them antifa, you can call them people paid by the Democratic machine — but to make the Trump campaign, the Trump movement, look bad,” he said (via Asheville’s Citizen Times). “And to make this look like it was a violent outrage, when really the battle was being fought by people like myself and other great patriots who are standing up against the establishment and standing up against this tyranny that we see in our country.”
Madison Cawthorn has no regrets about attending the Stop the Steal rally
Despite the violence and death that occurred at the Capitol, Madison Cawthorn says he stands by his fiery speech at the Stop the Steal rally. Appearing on the Carlos Watson Show a month after the riot took place, Cawthorn said, “I don’t regret it, actually, Carlos. 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.”
He said that his stated goal for speaking at the rally was to let the crowd now he had their back. “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 said, adding that he “wasn’t down there saying that there was a fraudulent system within Dominion voting machines, or there were U-Haul trucks being backed up with tons of ballots that were fraudulently marked, because I couldn’t personally prove that.”
“I definitely didn’t try to feed into that narrative,” he continued, referencing Donald Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud. “I hope my words brought peace into the hearts of more people than violence.”
Multiple sexual misconduct allegations were made against Madison Cawthorn
On Oct. 16, 2020, more than 150 former and current students of Patrick Henry College signed a open letter written by ten alumni that claimed Madison Cawthorn’s time at the school was marked by “gross misconduct towards our female peers, public misrepresentation of his past, disorderly conduct that was against the school’s student honor code and self-admitted academic failings,” and that the then-candidate “established a reputation of predatory behavior.”
A little more than five months later, BuzzFeed News spoke with over three dozen people from Peace Henry College who made allegations about “sexual harassment and misconduct on campus, in Cawthorn’s car, and at his house near campus.” The people interviewed included four women who recalled Cawthorn “calling them derogatory names in public in front of their peers, including calling one woman ‘slutty,’ asking them inappropriate questions about their sex lives, grabbing their thighs, forcing them to sit in his lap and kissing and touching them without their consent.”
Cawthorn would allegedly invite women on “fun drives” off campus where he would grill them about their sex life. “I realized he was taking me out to the middle of nowhere, Virginia,” former classmate Caitlin Coulter said. “We were on these small, like, one- [or] two-lane back roads, and I just felt so uncomfortable and nervous and not even something I think at the time I could put a finger on, but just, like, danger warning.”
Madison Cawthorn denied the allegations
Madison Cawthorn apologized on CNN to anyone he “made feel uncomfortable.” He added, “Looking back, I wish I could have changed my actions. If I made somebody feel uncomfortable in a situation, that is never my goal,” he said. During his campaign, Cawthorn addressed the allegations, saying (via The Washington Post), “If I have a daughter, I want her to grow up in a world where people know to explicitly ask before touching her. If I had a son, I want him to be able to grow up in a world where he would not be called a sexual predator for trying to kiss someone.”
On Feb. 27, 2021, one of Cawthorn’s accusers, Caitlin Coulter, described one of her interactions with Cawthorn to The Washington Post, stating that he drove her “somewhere very rural” and “grew frustrated” after she turned down his advances. “He turned the car around and drove very, like, violently is the best way I can think of to describe it. Violently back to campus,” she said.
In response to Coulter’s allegations, Cawthorn’s campaign released a statement (via CNN): “The voters of Western North Carolina responded to these allegations by giving Madison Cawthorn a 12-point victory over his opponent. Rep. Cawthorn is now busy doing the work he was elected to do including helping our economy recover from the pandemic, creating jobs and opportunity, making health care more affordable, protecting our natural environment and defending life and our Second Amendment rights.”
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