After facing a grassroots effort to prevent him from running for re-election, far-right Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn has been branded “deplorable” by a newspaper in his home state.
In an editorial, the Winston-Salem Journal wrote that Mr Cawthorn – whom it described as “North Carolina’s gift to Crazytown” – went too far recently by describing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “thug”. “This is a David and Goliath story,” wrote the editors, “and Cawthorn thinks Goliath got a bad rap.”
Mr Cawthorn’s comments came as many in his party scrambled not only to paint Joe Biden as insufficiently prepared to step up in Ukraine’s defence, but to distance themselves from some among their number who have praised Vladimir Putin or else parroted the Kremlin’s preferred talking points and conspiracy theories about the conflict.
As the paper noted, Republican North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis himself spoke up against Mr Cawthorn’s comments, calling them part of the “deranged propaganda” emanating from Russia and writing, “Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans and nearly every single member of Congress are united in support of Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”
Still, the paper writes that the behaviour of many in the GOP during the Ukrainian crisis “leads to questions about what Rep. Liz Cheney calls the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican Party”.
Mr Cawthorn, who was the youngest member of Congress in history when elected, has faced opprobrium for many reasons since he was first running for office.
As the Journal lists them, these include but are not limited to false statements about his educational record, multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault, “racist dog-whistles”, and heavily implying that his detractors could provoke political violence if events do not go his preferred way.
Speaking about the failed campaign to have him barred from the ballot over his professed support for insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021, Mr Cawthorn warned that “This is only going to lead to one place if you want to try and take the right of the people away to be able to vote for their elected official. This is going down a very dangerous path.”
That remark echoed another he made the previous summer: “As much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there’s nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American. And the way that we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states.”