Madison Cawthorn Concedes House Race (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

May 17, 2022 (updated May 19)

Madison Cawthorn has conceded after losing the North Carolina House primary. North Carolina State Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Rep. Madison Cawthorn to win the Republican nomination for the state’s 11th congressional district. CNN reported tonight that Cawthorn called primary opponent Chuck Edwards to concede.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, endorsed Edwards and said that Cawthorn had “fallen well short of the most basic standards western North Carolina expects from their representatives.” According to CNN, the two most powerful North Carolina Republicans in the state legislature – Senate leader Phil Berger and House speaker Tim Moore – headlined a fundraiser for Edwards last week.

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Cawthorn riled fellow Republicans in the House after his appearance on the “Warrior Poets Society” podcast in March. Cawthorn was asked how similar Congress was to the fictional political world presented on the Netflix show “House of Cards.” Cawthorn answered by telling the host that members of Congress held drug-fueled orgies.

“The sexual perversion that goes on in Washington … being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 — [you] look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life, I’ve always paid attention to politics,” he said. “Then all of a sudden you get invited — ‘We’re going to have a sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come.’ … What did you just ask me to come to? And then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy. … Some of the people leading on the movement to try and remove addiction in our country, and then you watch them do a key bump of cocaine right in front of you. And it’s like, this is wild.”

Wild indeed.

Cawthorn’s remarks drew the ire of fellow Republicans in Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, amid complaints from members following Cawthorn’s allegations, had a ‘stern’ meeting with Cawthorn. He told the freshman lawmaker he needed to get his act together or else he could face internal consequences, saying also that Cawthorn admitted the allegations were untrue.

“I’m very disappointed. I told him he’s lost my trust,” McCarthy said after the meeting, according to CNN’s Melanie Zanona. “He’s lost my trust. He’s going to have to earn it back. I laid out everything I find that’s unbecoming. … He’s got a lot of members upset. You can’t just make statements out there.” McCarthy also said that when pressed, Cawthorn basically admitted he either exaggerated or made up the allegations. “He did not tell the truth. That’s unacceptable,” said McCarthy.

On April 20, The Charlotte Observer reported: “Dashcam footage released Tuesday shows U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina getting pulled over in a traffic stop and being asked to surrender his license. The traffic stop happened in Cleveland County, North Carolina, March 3, 2022. A N.C. Highway Patrol trooper pulled over Cawthorn on U.S. 74 Business and charged him with driving while his license was revoked. (This was the second time he’s been cited for driving with a suspended license.)

This was yet another traffic violation for the congressman; on Oct. 18, 2021, a trooper charged Cawthorn with speeding while he was driving in a white 2009 Dodge passenger vehicle on Interstate 40. Knox said Cawthorn traveled 89 mph in a 65 mph zone. The case was disposed March 4; Cawthorn pleaded guilty to improper equipment and paid a fine of $25.

On Jan. 8, Cawthorn was pulled over in the same vehicle after a trooper said he was traveling 87 mph in a 70 mph zone on U.S. 74 in Polk County,” The Observer stated.

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Cawthorn’s tenure in Congress has been marked by a series of scandals that undercut his holy, hyper-masculine stance. Cawthorn, 26, (the youngest elected member of Congress), fashions himself as a God-fearing manly man. “I was raised on Proverbs and pushups,” Cawthorn said in a podcast in September 2020. “I think that we have bred a generation of soft men and that generation has created a lot of problems in our society and our culture,” he said last year on the Order of Man podcast, “designed to reclaim and restore masculinity in a society that is ever more dismissive of what it means to be a man.”

But on April 22, the release of some pictures contradicted that stance. Photographs obtained by POLITICO appeared to show Cawthorn in women’s lingerie, in what looks like a party setting. Surrounded by women, Cawthorn is clad in a sheer white blouse, a black lace bra and a matching scarf.

According to POLITICO, the pictures were provided by a person “formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign.” A second person formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign confirmed the origin of the photos. The date the photos were taken is unclear.

Cawthorn responded to the photos on Friday in a tweet. “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? They’re running out of things to throw at me,” he tweeted today. But the case against Cawthorn already includes a fairly long list of charges.

On April 26, Madison Cawthorn was caught trying to go through security with a loaded gun at Charlotte Douglas Internternational Airport this morning. According to multiple sources including ABC News, TSA officers spotted a 9-millimeter handgun at a checkpoint and called airport police. (This is the second time Cawthorn has tried to go through airport security while in possession of a firearm.)

On April 29, a video clip of Cawthorn with a staffer deepened his web of intrigue. The footage, which was obtained by the DailyMail.com and shared on Twitter by the Meidas Touch Twitter account, shows Cawthorn in a car with another male. The brief cellphone video records Cawthorn saying “I feel the passion and desire, and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.” The man filming the video, believed to be Cawthorn’s scheduler, Stephen Smith, responds “me too,” before reaching over and rubbing his hand on Cawthorn’s crotch.

Smith is also said to have lived with the GOP lawmaker in his home in Hendersonville, North Carolina for free ever since the freshman congressman took office. That arrangement was one of many things that prompted an ethics group to file complaint against Cawthorn. After naming the first two violations — his habit of bringing guns on planes and a dagger to Congressional grounds — the group named the following four violations.

  1. “Violation of House Rule XXIII, (3): Cawthorn provides free housing and travel as a gift to an employee of the House, Mr. Stephen L. Smith, in excess of $250.00. (See attachment A)
  2. Violation of House Rule XXV, (5): Rep. Cawthorn has provided loans to a member of the House staff, Mr. Stephen L. Smith, who is under his supervision. (See attachment B) The repayment by Mr. Smith has not been made and can be confirmed by reviewing Rep. Cawthorn and Mr. Smith’s House financial disclosures.
  3. Violation of House Rule XXVI: Rep. Cawthorn has not properly filed House financial disclosures
    regarding gifts and loans to Mr. Stephen L. Smith.
  4. Violations of House Rule XXIII: The Committee is requested to investigate whether any House Rules or statutes were violated by the relationship between Rep. Cawthorn and his House employee Mr. Stephen L. Smith. Mr. Smith apparently lives with Rep. Cawthorn and various social media postings by them indicate a personal relationship between them, separate and apart from the professional relationship of employer and employee. For example, Stephen L. Smith accompanied Rep. Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai, UAE, in April 2021.”
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Cawthorn garnered more negative attention after an opposition group released a video showing a man who appears to be Cawthorn naked in bed, making thrusting motions towards another person. After the video appeared on social media, Cawthorn tweeted, “A new hit against me just dropped. Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it. I’m NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will.”

Apparently he won’t.

UPDATE (May 19, 2022): Cawthorn has posted a sinister message on his Instagram account. In a lengthy caption, he wrote: “When the establishment turned their guns on me, when the Uni-party coalesced to defeat an America First member very few people had my back. This list includes the lion[‘s] share of figures that came to my defense when it was not politically profitable. These are honorable men and women who are the type of friends anyone yearns to have.”

“There are other National figures who I believe are patriots, but I am on a mission now to expose those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another, self-profiteering globalist goal. The time for gentile politics as usual has come to an end. It’s time for the rise of the new right, [and] it’s time for Dark MAGA to truly take command.”

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According to Business Insider, “Dark MAGA” is a burgeoning online fringe movement that calls for former President Donald Trump to return to power and take revenge against his enemies.  “A big part of the aesthetic involves memes of a God-like, authoritarian Trump getting revenge on perceived opponents,” Dr. Caroline Orr Bueno, a behavioral scientist researching far-right extremism, told Insider. “It’s an aggrieved movement centered around the idea of a vengeful return to power. They’re embracing the role of the villain and stripping away any facade of decency or political correctness.” 

The movement often features white nationalist and neo-Nazi imagery, Insider says. One of the movement’s goals appears to be to “unite disparate factions of right-wing extremism,” which largely fractured following the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017, where white supremacists were observed chanting “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us, says Tim Squirrell, head of communications and editorial at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (a London-based think tank addressing police responses to extremism).

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