No one likely is happier to see this week in the rearview mirror — more on that in a second — than North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who has had a hellish last few days.
Earlier this week, CNN reported that for the second time in the last five years, Cawthorn was facing charges of driving with a revoked license. And that that charge was one of three pending traffic citations against the congressman. (The other two were for speeding — one for going 89 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone, the other for going 87 miles per hour in a 70 mile-per-hour zone.)
Then, on Thursday, a video surfaced of a recent speech Cawthorn gave to supporters in which he described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “thug” and called the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil.” He also insisted, without explanation, that the Ukrainian government was “pushing woke ideologies.” He didn’t specifically explain what misinformation Zelensky was allegedly pushing on America.
Those comments — amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine — were decidedly counter to the general sentiment of support for Ukraine expressed by members of Congress and the American public. The remarks also immediately drew criticism from Cawthorn’s primary opponents — one of whom, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, tweeted this
: “Let’s be clear. The thug is Vladimir Putin.”
Cawthorn quickly moved to attempt to minimize the damage from his comments. “The actions of Putin and Russia are disgusting,” he tweeted
. “But leaders, including Zelensky, should NOT push misinformation on America.”
Cawthorn has stirred controversy since 2020, when he won the House seat of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, despite the fact that then President Donald Trump had endorsed one of his GOP primary opponents.
Photos of a 2017 trip Cawthorn made to Adolf Hitler’s vacation house — prior to running for Congress — surfaced on Instagram. Cawthorn wrote that the visit has been on his “bucket list for awhile” and “did not disappoint.”
In 2020, a website created for Cawthorn’s campaign alleged that New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was aiming to “ruin white males running for office.” Booker said at the time: “It just really personally saddens me that somebody who is so clearly racist is a nominee of a major party, and I think it’s a disrespect of the entire community.” In the wake of the controversy, Cawthorn said that “the syntax of our language was unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker.”
In a Washington Post profile of Cawthorn that ran in February 2021, Michael Kranisch wrote:
“The story of Cawthorn’s rise is, by any measure, an extraordinary accomplishment at a young age by a man who suffered a horrific injury. But an examination by The Post of how he ascended so quickly shows how even one of the most neophyte elected Republicans is adopting the Trump playbook, making false statements about his background, issuing baseless allegations about voter fraud and demonizing his political opponents.”
The following month, CNN reported on the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made against Cawthorn by several women when he was in college. For his part, Cawthorn said that “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life.”
Which is, well, a lot. Especially when you consider that Cawthorn hasn’t even served a single full term in Congress. Controversy seems to follow him, which is rarely a good thing for an ambitious politician with big dreams.