Madison Cawthorn

American politician and member of the US Congress since 2020

Encyclopedia from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Madison Cawthorn
Official portrait, 2020
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2021
Preceded byMark Meadows
Personal details
Born
David Madison Cawthorn

(1995-08-01) August 1, 1995 (age 26)
Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Cristina Bayardelle
(m. 2020)
Signature
WebsiteHouse website
Campaign website

David Madison Cawthorn (born August 1, 1995) is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district. A member of the Republican Party, Cawthorn was elected to Congress in 2020.[1] He is the youngest member of Congress since Jed Johnson Jr. and the first born in the 1990s.[2]

Early life and education

Cawthorn was born on August 1, 1995,[3] in Asheville, North Carolina, to Priscilla and Roger Cawthorn.[4] He was home-schooled in Hendersonville, North Carolina,[5][6] and played football in high school.[7] As a teenager, he worked at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.[8]

In 2014, at age 18, Cawthorn was seriously injured while returning from a spring-break trip to Florida. He was riding as a passenger in a BMW X3 SUV near Daytona Beach, Florida, when his friend Bradley Ledford fell asleep at the wheel. The SUV crashed into a concrete barrier while Cawthorn's feet were on the dashboard.[9][10] In a 2017 speech, Cawthorn said that Ledford left him "to die in a fiery tomb"; Ledford publicly disputed this in 2021, saying that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreck once he escaped the vehicle.[7] In their depositions, Cawthorn stated that he had "no memory from the accident", while Ledford said that he had helped rescue an unconscious Cawthorn.[7] In the same 2017 speech, Cawthorn declared that he was "declared dead on the scene" of the accident, but the official accident report listed Cawthorn as "incapacitated".[7] The injuries from the accident left Cawthorn partially paralyzed, and he now uses a wheelchair.[6] He said he accrued $3 million in medical debt during his recovery;[11] he has received that amount as settlement from an insurance company, as well as other payments, and as of February 2021 is seeking $30 million more.[7]

U.S. Representative Mark Meadows nominated Cawthorn to the United States Naval Academy in 2014, but his application was rejected before his 2014 car accident; Cawthorn had claimed during his congressional campaign in advertisements that the accident "derailed" his plans to attend the Academy.[8][12][13][14] Cawthorn subsequently said that at the time of the injury, he knew only that he had been nominated to the Academy and that he had expected to be accepted, and added that he never said that he had been accepted before the accident took place, but could have applied again later.[15][16] But in a lawsuit deposition, Cawthorn admitted that he had been rejected before the accident.[7]

During the fall 2016 semester, Cawthorn attended Patrick Henry College, studying political science, but earned mostly D grades and dropped out. He said his grades were low primarily because his injuries had interfered with his ability to learn.[8] Cawthorn said in a deposition, "You know, suffering from a brain injury after the accident definitely I think it slowed my brain down a little bit. Made me less intelligent. And the pain also made reading and studying very difficult."[17] He also said he withdrew due to "heartbreak" after his fiancée broke up with him.[14][18]

Early career

From January 2015 to August 2016, Cawthorn worked as a staff assistant in Representative Mark Meadows's district office.[19] He told the Asheville Citizen-Times he worked there "full-time", but it was a part-time role.[7]

Cawthorn is the owner of SPQR Holdings, LLC, a real estate investment firm in Hendersonville. The firm was started in August 2019 and reported no income; Cawthorn is its sole employee.[8] The initialism SPQR was commonly used as a symbol of the Roman Empire and stands for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Roman Senate and People"). SPQR "has been embraced by skinhead gangs in Italy and by some white nationalists in the United States",[20] but the Anti-Defamation League does not include SPQR in its hate symbol database, and the organization's Mark Pitcavage has said it is used "just as much or more often by nonextremists than extremists".[21] Cawthorn has said he used the initials for his company name merely because it is "a term for Rome" and that "SPQR is a warning to my generation from the ages against tyranny and authoritarianism."[20]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2020
Cawthorn speaking at a Turning Point USA event in 2020

In the March 2020 Republican primary for North Carolina's 11th congressional district, Cawthorn finished second behind Lynda Bennett, who had been endorsed both by President Donald Trump and Cawthorn's former mentor,[22] Meadows, who had become White House Chief of Staff.[23] But Bennett did not receive the required 30% of the vote to avoid a runoff and Cawthorn won the June runoff overwhelmingly.[24] He was supported by many local leaders and endorsed by Mark Walker, the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.[22][25] His victory has been called an upset.[26][27] Cawthorn benefited from false and misleading claims that Bennett was a "Never-Trumper".[7]

Cawthorn is the youngest Republican and one of the youngest members ever elected to the House of Representatives.[26][28] He has said that he would "like to be the face of the Republican Party when it comes to health care."[11]

In 2017, Cawthorn posted an Instagram picture of his visit to Adolf Hitler's vacation residence Eagle's Nest, which he said had been on his "bucket list for a while".[29][30][31] In the post, he called Hitler Führer, a German term meaning "leader", and the site "supreme evil".[29][32] During his 2020 campaign, the post generated criticism and allegations of far-right sympathies.[29][21] In response, Cawthorn denied being a white supremacist, calling the allegations ridiculous, and said he "completely and wholeheartedly denounce[s] any kind of white nationalism, any kind of Nazism".[13][29][21] The Anti-Defamation League's analyst Mark Pitcavage said he did not see much merit in the accusations against Cawthorn.[29][21] Some Jewish residents of his congressional district expressed concern about the incident, including Esther Manheimer, mayor of Asheville, the district's largest city.[31] Cawthorn deleted the Instagram post on August 10.[32]

In July 2020, at an event at the Texas border, Cawthorn declared, without evidence, that there was "a large group of cartels, kidnapping our American children and then taking them to sell them on a slave market, a sex slave market".[7]

Cawthorn spoke on the third day of the 2020 Republican National Convention.[33] During his election bid, Cawthorn's campaign created an attack website which criticized journalist Tom Fiedler, who had produced investigative pieces on Cawthorn and had written favorably about his opponent. The website accused Fiedler of leaving academia "to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office."[34][35] The sentence on the website was later modified to claim Fiedler is "an unapologetic defender of left-wing identity politics".[34] Cawthorn released a statement saying he had intended "to condemn" such political opinion as being "dangerous and divisive"[35] and said that he "condemned racism and identity politics throughout [his] campaign."[35] Ben Mathis-Lilley, writing for Slate, observed that Cawthorn's apology "convolutedly expressed regret for 'having unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker,' which is notable in that it is not an apology for attacking the journalist in question, Tom Fiedler, as a traitor to his race."[36]

In the November general election, Cawthorn defeated Democratic nominee Moe Davis. He took office on January 3, 2021.[1][37] Upon hearing he had won, he tweeted, "cry more, lib".[38][39][40]

Tenure

During his candidacy and time in Congress, Cawthorn has been known for incendiary rhetoric and promulgating conspiracy theories.[7] He had said he intended to use his position to be a messenger rather than a legislator, writing to his colleagues, "I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation."[41]

In December 2020, at a Turning Point USA conference in Florida, Cawthorn said that he would try to contest the 2020 United States presidential election results when Congress counted the Electoral College votes in January, citing fraud, though there was no evidence that fraud affected the election results.[42][43] He subsequently used conspiracy theories about fraud to run advertisements and raise money for himself.[44] He called on the TPUSA event's attendees to "lightly threaten" their representatives.[45]

Cawthorn took his seat as U.S. Representative at the start of the 117th Congress on January 3, 2021.[46]

Before Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, Cawthorn addressed the crowd and said, "this crowd has some fight."[47] He voted not to certify the Electoral College results in Congress[40] and called Republicans who voted to certify the results "spineless cowards".[40] He repeated the false conspiracy theories that there was widespread fraud in the election.[7] After the riots, Cawthorn denounced the violence and said, "The party as a whole should have been much more wise about their choice of words."[48] He later attempted to blame the riots on a "Democratic machine" of "agitators strategically placed inside of this group", amid intensifying calls for his resignation for his part in stoking the riots.[49]

On January 20, 2021, the day of Joe Biden's inauguration, Cawthorn was one of 17 newly-elected House Republicans to sign a letter congratulating him and expressing hope of bipartisan cooperation.[50] On January 22, 2021, the government watchdog group Campaign for Accountability asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Cawthorn's role in the January 6 Capitol riot.[51][52]

On January 23, 2021, on CNN Newsroom, Pamela Brown asked Cawthorn about his views of the election results, to which Cawthorn eventually responded that there was no voter fraud. He said, "You know, the Constitution allowed for us to be able to push back as much as we could and I did that to the amount of the constitutional limits that I had at my disposal. So now I would say that Joseph R. Biden is our president".[53] According to Time, Cawthorn was "trying to have it both ways. One day, he's preaching about respecting the office of the Presidency and vowing to work across the aisle with Democratic colleagues. The next, he's trumpeting dangerous conspiracies to right-wing crowds and commentators."[41]

On February 13, 2021, Transportation Security Administration agents at the Asheville Regional Airport discovered an unloaded Glock 9mm handgun and loaded magazine in Cawthorn's carry-on bag. The gun and ammunition were confiscated and stored by airport police and Cawthorn was allowed to retrieve them upon his return to Asheville on February 22. A spokesman for Cawthorn said the gun, magazine and ammunition were meant to have been stowed in his checked luggage. Possible penalties include a federal fine and the loss of special security status, according to local and federal officials.[54]

In late February 2021, Cawthorn and a dozen other Republican House members skipped votes and enlisted others to vote for them, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But he and the other members were actually attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held at the same time as their absences.[55] In response, the Campaign for Accountability, an ethics watchdog group, filed a complaint with the House Committee on Ethics and requested an investigation into Cawthorn and the other lawmakers.[56] He has criticized the Biden administration's efforts to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19, saying that a proposed door-to-door campaign to speak to people individually about vaccination could lead to government agents going door-to-door to "take your guns" and "take your Bibles."[57]

In June 2021, Cawthorn was one of 49 House Republicans to vote to repeal the AUMF against Iraq.[58][59]

An aide to Representative David McKinley filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn in July 2021, after Cawthorn first scolded a McKinley aide and later got into a shouting match with McKinley over being listed as a co-sponsor of McKinley's bill, reported Politico.[60]

At an August 2021 Macon County, North Carolina Republican Party event, Cawthorn said: "if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place—and it's bloodshed." He then said, "as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American", with the only way to prevent that being "election security".[61]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Personal life

Cawthorn in 2020

Cawthorn describes himself as a Christian and a constitutional conservative. He is married to Cristina Cawthorn (née Bayardelle),[64][65] a college student and competitive CrossFit athlete.[66][67] He has an older brother, Zachary.[68]

Cawthorn trains in wheelchair racing. He has said he had trained for the 2020 Summer Paralympics, but has never competed at a qualifying level and is not involved in a team.[69][70]

In April 2021, Cawthorn married Bayardelle in a private ceremony, but they have been legally married since December 2020.[71][72]

Sexual misconduct allegations

In August 2020, during Cawthorn's campaign for Congress, several women came forward accusing him of sexually aggressive behavior, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.[12][73][74][75] Katrina Krulikas described an incident when she was 17 and Cawthorn was 19 in which Cawthorn pressured her to sit on his lap and attempted to kiss her forcefully twice, which she resisted.[7] Cawthorn did not deny the allegations, but said, "I did try and kiss her, just very normal, just in a flirtatious way", adding, "If I did make her feel unsafe, I feel bad", but questioned the timing of her allegation.[76] His campaign characterized Krulikas's allegations as politically motivated, which she denied.[75]

After Krulikas made her allegations, three other women made allegations of sexual misconduct against Cawthorn, including forcible grabbing and kissing.[77] One woman said Cawthorn called her "just a little blonde, slutty American girl" when she rejected his sexual advances.[7][14]

On October 17, 2020, a group of Patrick Henry College alumni released a public letter accusing Cawthorn of "sexually predatory behavior" while he was a student there for little more than one semester, as well as of vandalism and lying. The letter originally had 10 signatories but the number increased to over 150 alumni. Cawthorn claimed that most of the signers did not know him personally and his campaign posted a letter of support for him signed by six alumni, two of whom work for Cawthorn's campaign. The letter implied support by former Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris; Farris disavowed the support letter and asked that he not be associated with it.[78]

A February 2021 BuzzFeed News investigation found 20 people who said that Cawthorn had harassed his female classmates during college; the reporters spoke to four women who said that Cawthorn had harassed them. It was alleged that Cawthorn often recklessly drove women in his car to remote areas off campus while asking them sexual questions, which he called "fun drives". Two resident assistants said they warned women to avoid Cawthorn and not to ride in his car. A male acquaintance said Cawthorn bragged about pulling a woman into his lap and putting a finger between her legs.[14]

References

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External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th congressional district

2021–present
Incumbent
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Baby of the House
2021–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
United States representatives by seniority
381st
Succeeded by
Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - Madison Cawthorn