Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has made more than a few enemies within the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill.
The 26-year-old first-term congressman recently ignited a firestorm when he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded at a Capitol press conference when asked about the remarks, saying, “Madison is wrong. If there’s any thug in this world, it’s Putin.”
McCarthy cited Putin’s attacks on a children’s hospital and a theater sheltering hundreds of refugees as examples of his brutality.
But when asked if he still supported Cawthorn’s reelection, McCarthy said “yes.”
Unfortunately, for Cawthorn, things became worse after he said on a podcast that Republican lawmakers had invited him to orgies and done cocaine in front of him. The remarks left many House Republicans, including the Chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, furious and demanding Cawthorn “name names” when he makes such allegations.
In a follow-up meeting with McCarthy, Cawthorn said his remarks were “exaggerated.” McCarthy said afterward that he wouldn’t take further action against Cawthorn — yet.
When pressed for additional details, McCarthy said, “I just told him he’s lost my trust, he’s gonna have to earn it back, and I laid out everything I find is unbecoming. And, you can’t just say, ‘You can’t do this again.’ I mean, he’s, he’s got a lot of members very upset.”
“In the interview, he claims he watched people do cocaine. Then when he comes in, he tells me, he says he thinks he saw maybe a staffer in a parking garage from 100 yards away,” McCarthy said, as recorded by an Axios reporter.
Other lawmakers are utterly fed up with what they perceive to be Cawthorn’s immaturity and unforced errors. Additionally, Cawthorn had been accused of sexual misconduct during his college years. Now, a growing number of Republicans — including both of North Carolina’s U.S. senators — are blasting him.
Indeed, one of them, Sen. Thom Tillis, is publicly backing Cawthorn’s primary opponent.
In a statement expressing his support for state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Tillis said, “Unfortunately, Madison Cawthorn has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives, and voters now have several well-qualified candidates to choose from who would be a significant improvement.”
But despite all that animosity within the GOP caucus and palpable frustration from high-profile conservatives, former President Donald Trump has chosen Cawthorn to speak at his upcoming rally in North Carolina. The announcement allows Cawthorn to defend himself in front of the most enthusiastic Trump supporters at a time when he’s particularly vulnerable.
As The Hill reports:
Cawthorn will be joined by Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), whom Trump has endorsed for the Republican Senate nomination in North Carolina, as well as Bo Hines, a former college football player who scored Trump’s endorsement last month in the race for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.
Cawthorn, a 26-year-old serving out his first term in the House, has become the subject of controversy in recent weeks, first after he described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “thug” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and more recently for claiming on a podcast that some of his colleagues attend orgies and use cocaine.
Those latest allegations, in particular, have drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers in Washington, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who told reporters this week that Cawthorn had “lost my trust, and he’s going to have to earn it back.”
Still, Cawthorn’s planned appearance at Trump’s April 9 rally in Selma, N.C., suggests that, despite the controversies, he still has the support of the former president, who remains the most influential figure in the modern GOP.
So, what do you think? Is Trump right to invite Cawthorn to speak at his upcoming rally? Or is he failing to hold a Member of Congress accountable for repeated missteps that many say hurt Republicans? Tell us in the comments below!