Several humiliating traffic stops A legitimate allegation of insider trading. He was seen wearing hoop earrings and a bra. A video shows a man’s hand near his crotch. Another video shows him humorously but nakedly humping the upper torso of a guy who may be his cousin. And there may be more to come.
Few in politics have seen anything like the ever-worsening public relations trainwreck that has destroyed Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s political career (R-NC). Insiders claim the never-ending barrage of negative headlines is the work of political actors seeking to derail the 26-year-old MAGA hero in the May 17 primary election.
With a slew of eager Republican primary challengers vying for the contentious freshman’s seat, the origins of the coordinated reports seem to be clear: the assaults are coming from inside the house.
“It’s definitely a hit job that I’m happy to be a party to,” said an experienced North Carolina operative participating in the campaign.
“Most of the GOP universe has come around to align against this guy,” he added. “You’re seeing a full-court, state-based, establishment pushback against him. Get this guy out. Take him out. We’re gonna see if we can pull it off in eight days.”
Some on both the right and left believe that the knives were drawn in March when Cawthorn said that anonymous GOP senators were openly sniffing narcotics and having orgies.
That may have been the last straw for some. Cawthorn, on the other hand, has spent the past year creating enemies, from Capitol Hill to the North Carolina district he represents. The congressman’s most recent spate of unforced errors—from the coke-and-orgy remarks to referring to Ukraine’s president as a “thug”—only served to strengthen a formidable coalition of old enemies and erstwhile allies.
The former group, headed by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), has endorsed state Sen. Chuck Edwards, one of Cawthorn’s main primary candidates, and has spent substantially on anti-Congressman commercials.
But it was the latter group—his former allies—who fueled the all-out effort to bring Cawthorn down ahead of the primary. Multiple individuals close to the race believe the most sensitive information was leaked by persons formerly close to Cawthorn, and the rumor mill in western North Carolina is humming with assumptions on a regular basis.
The source of many of those hits, on the other hand, has been well documented. “Fire Madison,” a political action organization formed by two local Democrats, has published and promoted some of the most slanderous allegations leveled against the rookie representative.
“We’ve become kind of the dumping ground for info on the guy,” admitted David Wheeler, a former candidate for the state senate who runs much of the day-to-day operation of the Fire Madison PAC. “Obviously, we have a target, we’re not afraid to take him on and put out the information his opponents wouldn’t—or the Democrats wouldn’t.”
That includes a video published last week, with several warnings and cautions, of a shirtless Cawthorn climbing another guy in bed and dry-humping his face while making odd yelping noises—apparently as a joke, but bizarre nevertheless. Cawthorn did not deny the film was genuine, but he dismissed it as horseplay, claiming that his opponents were attempting to “blackmail” him by releasing it. Few news sources covered it. His opponents didn’t even try.
This is US GOP congressman Madison Cawthorn dry humping his biological cousin. Or as he calls it “locker room fun.”LOL. Hypocrisy is a bitch. pic.twitter.com/k4lzdKC8jM
— Dean Blundell (@ItsDeanBlundell) May 5, 2022
Wheeler stated in an interview that the footage came through email from a guy who wished to remain anonymous as a “former supporter and donor” to Cawthorn.
It was only one of several suggestions and tidbits of information concerning Cawthorn that the PAC had gotten from different sources. And, according to Wheeler, that firehose of opposition includes far more explicit footage involving the congressman—information Wheeler claims he cannot publish without violating North Carolina law.
“People think we’re under Kevin McCarthy’s finger, and that he’s telling us what to do because he wants to get back at Madison,” Wheeler added, referring to the House GOP leader, who publicly and privately chastised Cawthorn following his orgy remarks.
“It’s not folks out of Washington that are sending this stuff,” Wheeler maintained. “It’s folks who used to work with him, who were his supporters.”
The attacks against Cawthorn are set to continue with less than a week before the primary election. If he receives less than 30% of the vote, the congressman would face a runoff with the second-place finisher in a field of seven challengers—a situation that might exacerbate the barrage of insults.
Cawthorn, on the other hand, isn’t exactly helping his own case on a number of fronts.
For one thing, his campaign has spent virtually all of its funds and is now running on fumes as it enters the last stretch of the primary.
Cawthorn presently owes twice as much money as it has in the bank. They built up over $250,000 in debt in April alone, while spending another $216,000. The campaign made up the difference with just $102,000 in donations, ending the month with little more than $137,000 in cash on hand.
However, the issue is not confined to spending. It’s also how he’s going to spend it.
“It’s a grift and a racket,” one North Carolina GOP strategist stated. Reports of Cawthorn providing perks to his buddies have raised questions among Republicans in the state, he claimed.
Cawthorn seems to have paid his senior office and campaign employee more than the maximum permissible outside income—up to $40,000 more than the limit, while passing tens of thousands of dollars via a shell LLC. The employee is a twentysomething college acquaintance whose earlier employment experience seems to have been mostly on operating a Texas fireworks business.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Cawthorn has also sent campaign monies to a number of other pals while being tight-lipped about the specifics of those payments.
Cawthorn’s actions has now “totally weirded out” Trump. McCarthy said in late March that Cawthorn had lost his trust as minority leader and that he needed to “turn himself around.”
What precisely it implies is unknown, but there’s certainly lots of innuendo and rage, as with most things surrounding Madison Cawthorn.
Despite the barrage of criticism, the national party’s political wing is mostly remaining out of the election. Even Trump’s most ardent supporters are refusing to donate to Cawthorn or appear with him.
“The MAGA world is keeping their distance,” a strategist said, stressing that party officials are hesitant to lay wagers ahead of a likely primary nail-biter, particularly because the victor will be a strong favorite in the general election in this conservative area.
“They aren’t sure how this is going to play out, and right now they don’t want to put their credibility on the line considering all the baggage Madison has right now,” he said.
— POSEIDON🇺🇦🇪🇺💉😷 (@poseidongrde) May 4, 2022
“I’ve never seen the Swamp launch such a coordinated attack against any individual in politics except for Donald Trump,” Cawthorn said in a video posted to Twitter last week, boasting that he was so far ahead in the polls that he didn’t need to defend himself, but was “honor-bound” to allegedly set the record straight.
I’m ready to keep fighting for you.
I wanted you to know the truth, straight from me. Don’t lose hope, don’t listen to the fake news.
Don’t let the swamp of Washington dissuade or distract you from sending a warrior back to Washington.
I’ve only just begun to fight for you. pic.twitter.com/kDqtzsoquT
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) May 4, 2022
Some of Cawthorn’s detractors are concerned that Republican voters are warming to the young representative. Even some liberal-leaning media, like as Mic, have pushed the idea that Cawthorn is being punished for speaking out about widespread drug use and group sex in the old, white GOP.
Michele Woodhouse, a former district GOP chair who is running against Cawthorn in the Trump lane, said she sees individuals on the campaign trail who feel there is a “plot” to depose him.
That, and there’s a video of naked you humping some dude, your cousin rubbing your junk, and your homoerotic pic with your family member. pic.twitter.com/rqbd5GqEmG
— Cosmo Brown 🇺🇦 (@CosmoBrown10) May 7, 2022
“The left-wing media didn’t make Madison Cawthorn drive without a license for three years, or burn through money like a drunken sailor, or give him 18-plus ethics violations,” Woodhouse said. “Western North Carolinians are smart—and there is no conspiracy here. It’s his choices. It’d behoove him to own them.”
Wheeler, who works for the super PAC that Cawthorn blames for many of the articles that have appeared, disputed the notion that there would be any response to their unrelenting campaign.
In March, Cawthorn voted against a bill to provide $20 billion per year to veterans exposed to toxins during their service https://t.co/ySn2OTuhJl
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) May 12, 2022
“Our perspective is, anybody that believes Madison Cawthorn was the victim here was probably going to vote for him anyway,” Wheeler said.
Some media analysts have questioned the choice to broadcast the sexually explicit Cawthorn films, citing press coverage that has extensively emphasized the congressman’s attraction to or involvement with males.
Without any context to explain the most recent video—such as whether Cawthorn was married at the time or even his age—more it’s difficult to argue what broader point is being made by revealing the humiliating clip to the public.
Here is just a sampling of the veterans’ bills Madison Cawthorn has voted AGAINST…https://t.co/dCRMPfani5
— Science Matters 🇺🇦🇺🇸 (@trustscience92) May 11, 2022
When challenged, Wheeler claimed it was “simple” to decide that publishing the footage was in the best interests of the public. He did, however, claim that after receiving it, the PAC considered flagging it for the sheriff in Henderson County, Cawthorn’s home county, but opted against it.
They also waited to see whether other media sources would cover the footage once it became viral, but after a while, “we could see nobody was going to take it,” Wheeler said. They believed they had “no option” but to release it at that time, although with a huge list of limitations.
Katie Dean is running to be the Democrat to unseat Madison Cawthorn.
As a resident who’s struggled with healthcare costs & running a business, she believes county employees should receive fair pay for a hard day’s work.
— Christopher 🇺🇸 Is Pro-Choice (@cwebbonline) May 11, 2022
According to Wheeler, the PAC’s website traffic increased from an average of 2,000-3,000 visitors to 370,000 watchers of one video alone, virtually down the site.
He said that, despite his lack of awareness about the circumstances surrounding the video, his actions spoke for themselves and demonstrated that he is a hypocrite about the buttoned-down, socially conservative principles he espouses in public.
“Our focus is getting the guy fired. Some of what we do is pleasant, and readable, some of what we do is a little nasty, and not everyone’s cup of tea,” Wheeler said. “But it’s all facts.”