Rep. Madison Cawthorn Will Be Just Fine, Probably

AP Photo/Chris Seward

It seems that every week, another “scandal” involving Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) emerges and supposedly threatens to end his political career. The controversial lawmaker has been the subject of criticism on many occasions, and there have been rumblings of the GOP wanting to get rid of him. But despite his many mishaps, there is no reason to think he will be ousted anytime soon.

The latest “bombshell” to hit the digital press involved Cawthorn’s bizarre exchanges with a member of his staff. The Daily Mail obtained footage of the lawmaker interacting with the staff member, Stephen Smith. The video shows Cawthorn sitting in the driver’s seat of his car being filmed by Smith. The lawmaker puts on a fake accent and says, “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.”

Smith responds, “Me too,” while Cawthorn laughs, and then Smith places his hand in the lawmaker’s crotch. “The video is one of several exhibits filed in support of the ethics complaint drafted by political group Fire Madison Cawthorn,” according to The Daily Mail.

The complaint calls for an investigation into the representative, alleging he has violated House rules. From The Daily Mail:

Among the many allegations is the claim that representative for North Carolina’s 11th district provided thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to Smith, a staff member, with whom, the complaint states, he is engaged in an improper relationship characterized by steamy postings on social media and so close that the staffer joined Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai in April 2021.

According to the filing Cawthorn has provided free housing, travel and loans to Smith, none of which have been declared or repaid.

The filing also claims that “various social media postings by them indicate a personal relationship between them, separate and apart from the professional relationship of employer and employee.”

Cawthorn’s office has indicated the two are close friends and cousins.

The lawmaker has also come under fire for speaking at the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally that devolved into the riot at the U.S. Capitol building. “This crowd has some fight in it. … The Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,” he said during his speech.

“We’re not doing this just for Donald Trump, we are doing this for the Constitution,” he added.

This has led Democrats to deceptively assert, without evidence, that Cawthorn was at least partially responsible for inciting the riot, and have referred to him and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as “insurrectionists.”

In March 2021, Cawthorn was cited for driving with a suspended license. Indeed, the lawmaker has three different citations from various counties in the state. His license had been taken away in 2017.

On April 22, pictures surfaced showing a younger Cawthorn at a party wearing lingerie. He admitted to being the person in the photos and explained that he was on a cruise during a vacation before he ever ran for public office. “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?” he said.

“They’re running out of things to throw at me,” he continued.

Four days later, the lawmaker was caught in Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a loaded firearm. The weapon was found in his bag. It was the second time he had been cited for this particular offense.

But it was Cawthorn’s comments about the political scene in D.C. that raised eyebrows, and could be the impetus behind the slew of attacks he is facing. During an appearance on a podcast, he said the Netflix television show “House of Cards” was more real than people might think. “All of the sudden you get invited to, ‘Well, hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come.’ … You realize they are asking you to come to an orgy,” he said, claiming he witnessed people doing “key bumps of cocaine.”

The lawmaker was roundly criticized for his comments. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy scolded him for making the remarks, saying “there’s no evidence to this” and that his comments were “not becoming of a congressman.”

All of this comes a year after allegations of sexual harassment were made public by multiple women who attended college with him years ago. He has admitted to one instance in which he kissed a female student without her consent, but denies all of the other accusations.

Sounds pretty damning, doesn’t it?

Maybe, but it won’t be enough. The reality is that while the list of his controversies is long, most of them are nothingburgers. With the exception of the sexual misconduct allegations, nothing Cawthorn has done has risen to a level where it would even be appropriate to refer to it as a scandal. His banter with Smith might be a bit odd, but there does not appear to be anything illegal there. Moreover, nobody believes the argument that his comments about the D.C. sleaze scene are inaccurate. We all have at least an idea of what goes down in the nation’s capital.

Most of these stories are examples of Cawthorn acting irresponsibly. But it won’t be enough to persuade voters to kick him out. Moreover, sexual misconduct allegations do not seem to hurt politicians as much as they used to. Unless there is another shoe waiting to drop, it is doubtful that the lawmaker will lose his position because of any of these stories. But this doesn’t mean they won’t try, right?


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