Rep. Madison Cawthorn accused a media outlet of making him out to be ‘some sort of drag queen’ on Wednesday in a lengthy video lashing out at negative press against him.
The North Carolina Republican has already racked up a lengthy rap sheet of scandals – after denying multiple sexual assault allegations against him during the first campaign – while also facing a tough re-election bid that’s been opposed by members of his own party.
He invoked the ire of his party earlier this year when he claimed to have been invited to cocaine-fueled orgies with senior colleagues – even sparking a public rebuke by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Since then an apparent sex tape, improper relations with a staffer, and multiple run-ins with law enforcement are just a few of the headlines the 26-year-old lawmaker has dealt with in the last few months of his first term in Congress.
Cawthorn dismissed the slew of bombshells as a coordinated ‘drip campaign’ in a ‘blackmail plot’ to prevent him from keeping his seat in November’s midterms.
Voters head to the polls on May 17 for the crowded eight-way GOP primary race in the deep-red 11th Congressional District. And despite clinching marquee GOP endorsements like those of Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, recent polls show that mounting scandals could be taking a toll on his race.
Veteran GOP strategist Douglas Heye told DailyMail.com that Cawthorn ‘has a tough primary, and for only self-created reasons.’
Asked about if any particular scandal would trip his campaign up the most, Heye replied: ‘It’s all of it, and those all speak to different audiences.’ However he noted that should Cawthorn win his primary, he’s likely to sail to victory given Republicans’ dominance in the district.
Cawthorn does still enjoy a double-digit lead over his top rival, North Carolina state Senator Chuck Edwards, according to recent polling. However his lead appears to have dropped off from 48 percent to 38 while Edwards’ support has climbed by seven points
He’s also on the receiving end of a lawsuit trying to keep him off of North Carolina’s midterm ballot over his links to the January 6 Capitol riot.
Edwards is endorsed by North Carolina Senator Tom Tillis, a top critic of Cawthorn’s in Congress. A fundraising group linked to Tillis launched attack ads on Thursday over Cawthorn infamously calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a ‘thug.’
Below is a look at the latest negative press that’s hit the congressman.
Cawthorn says he was ‘being crass with a friend’ in video of his nude thrusting
A short video clip appearing to show the North Carolina Republican simulating a sex act with another person was circulated on Twitter on Wednesday night.
The clip features a seemingly naked Cawthorn shrieking and grunting as he thrusts against an unknown man’s face. Another person — presumably whoever is recording — can be heard telling Cawthorn to ‘stick it in his face.’
‘Fire Madison Cawthorn’ president David Wheeler said in a statement that the video was ‘passed to us by a former supporter’ without naming who it was.
Cawthorn responded to the video soon after it was posted, calling it a ‘new hit.’
‘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,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I’m NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will.’
GOP strategist Heye told DailyMail.com that images and videos like that one are ‘anathema’ to Evangelical voters — a key Republican demographic.
The latest Cawthorn scandal involved a video clip appearing to show the congressman naked and thrusting at an unknown male
Ex-staffer says Cawthorn ran an alcohol-filled office overrun with pets in leaked audio
‘Fire Madison Cawthorn’ was previously behind a leaked call between Wheeler and a former caseworker in Cawthorn’s office who said she intended to bring a lawsuit against him for unfair workplace practices.
The staffer, Lisa Wiggins, claimed Cawthorn’s office did not let her take time off when her husband had a heart attack and her uncle died within the same week.
She was fired a short while later.
Without invoking Cawthorn’s name, Wiggins said, ‘As far as the candidate himself, I mean, he’s just a bad person.
‘He’s a habitual liar and he’s going to say and do anything he can to your face but behind your back he’s completely opposite,’ Wiggins claimed.
Cawthorn’s Hendersonville, North Carolina office allegedly has ‘more liquor bottles than they do water bottles’ and even had animals like puppies and kittens running around.
‘He’s got a litter box in there, for Heaven’s sakes,’ Wiggins said.
She also said he closed all of his district offices but one. And rather than informing constituents of the change, he allegedly uses call-forwarding to channel all calls to Hendersonville.
Wiggins said she knew that was true because she ‘drove and closed them all.’
‘He didn’t have enough caseworkers to man them. He didn’t care, he doesn’t care about his constituents. He does not care,’ she said.
Cawthorn denied the accusations in a Wednesday video, stating ‘nothing could be further from the truth.’
That call was first reported by Smoky Mountain News.
Wiggins suggested on the call multiple times that she has ‘a lot of good stories’ about Cawthorn but was hesitant about providing them over the phone.
‘A lot of it’s the partying and the drinking,’ she said of the information she had. ‘I mean drinking like crazy, partying.’
Crotch-grabbing video spurs ethics investigation into Cawthorn’s relationship with his cousin
Another leaked clip of Cawthorn’s past behavior is at the heart of an ethics complaint into whether the 26-year-old congressman has an improper relationship with a member of his staff.
The aide is Cawthorn’s scheduler Stephen Smith, who the lawmaker said is his cousin. Smith being a distant cousin of Cawthorn’s, however, means he can be on the Republican’s Congressional staff without running afoul of nepotism laws that explicitly ban federal lawmakers from hiring 11 specific types of relatives.
The DailyMail.com-obtained clip shows Cawthorn in the driver’s seat of a car, saying in an unspecified accent: ”I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.’
Smith, apparently filming, turns the lens onto himself to reply ‘Me too.’
The camera then shows Smith reaching for Cawthorn’s crotch as the lawmaker laughs.
But the video is just one facet of Cawthorn’s relationship with Smith that has concerned House ethicists.
An earlier video first reported by DailyMail.com shows Cawthorn talking about wanting to ‘see a naked body beneath my hands’ before his staffer and distant cousin Stephen Smith puts his hand on Cawthorn’s crotch
A Venmo payment history between Smith and Cawthorn, attached to the ethics filing and dating from June 2018 is littered with suggestive messages in the form of notes attached to the payments. One payment made by Cawthorn to Smith and dated June 17, 2018, reads, ‘Getting naked for me in Sweden’
Allegations also involve lavish gifts and generous loans being given to Smith, including Cawthorn providing him with undeclared free travel and housing.
The complaint claims that Smith lives with Cawthorn and even accompanied him on his April 2021 honeymoon in Dubai with the lawmaker’s now-ex-wife.
Screenshots of racy messages and images of the pair have fueled questions about the nature of their relationship. June 2018 Venmo payments between them include captions like ‘Getting naked for me in Sweden’ and ‘The quickie at the airport.’
Cawthorn appeared to be responding to the video in comments attacking DailyMail.com on Wednesday.
‘This video is just stupid locker room talk between two cousins that grew up like brothers, taken long before I served in Congress. And my cousin Stephen that they’re attacking is my ADA. He’s family and he’s my best friend,’ he says.
‘The article published in the tabloid [DailyMail.com] didn’t even bother to fact check any of this or send the video to my office before they ran this with misinformation. The media lies. It shouldn’t surprise any of us.’
DailyMail.com’s article did in fact note that Cawthorn’s press secretary said the pair were cousins when reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Laura Collins
Footage obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com shows Rep. Madison Cawthorn (left), 26, in a car with his close aide and staffer Stephen Smith, 23 (right)
Cawthorn seen in lingerie in photos from cruise
Late last month Politico published exclusive photos showing the North Carolina Republican dressed in women’s lingerie, which Cawthorn later ascribed to a ‘game on a cruise.’
The images are a stark contrast to the hyper-masculine persona Cawthorn has sought to cultivate in Congress, once stating in a September 2020 podcast that he was ‘raised on proverbs and pushups.’
He complained in March 2021: ‘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.’
It’s unclear when the photos were taken. The congressman appears to be sitting in a wheelchair, meaning they would likely have come some time after the 2014 car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down.
‘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?’ the lawmaker tweeted on April 22.
‘They’re running out of things to throw at me…’
The photos, obtained by Politico and look to make even the most devoted partiers blush, show the 26-year-old Republican with a vacant look in his eyes, wearing women’s hoop earrings and a woman’s necklace along with a bra and lingerie set
In the same Wednesday video featuring Cawthorn bashing DailyMail.com, he also appears to take aim at Politico for publishing the images.
‘This article is pushing some kind of ludicrous narrative that I’m some sort of drag queen on the side, aside from being a congressman,’ the lawmaker said.
‘And really, this is just poor journalism, and I’m not surprised. It is Politico after all — not exactly the same journalistic standards as Fox or Newsmax.’
Senator Tillis calls for Cawthorn insider trading probe over alleged cryptocurrency scheme
Tillis, among Cawthorn’s most prominent critics, demanded a Congressional inquiry into whether the young lawmaker violated insider trading laws after an explosive report linked Cawthorn to a cryptocurrency pump-and-dump scheme.
The Washington Examiner published a report suggesting Cawthorn could have been linked to a financial scheme involving cryptocurrency ‘Let’s Go Brandon.’
He had written on a December 29 Instagram post of him with ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ cryptocurrency leader James Koutoulas, ‘LGB legends. … Tomorrow we go to the moon!’
The next day, NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced the cryptocurrency was his new sponsor and the coin’s value shot up 75 percent. Cawthorn has previously stated that he’s an owner of the currency.
‘Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation,’ Tillis wrote on Twitter that week.
‘There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee.’
Cawthorn seemed to take aim at Tillis in yet another video after the senator’s call for an investigation, disparaging the senior lawmaker as a ‘Republican In Name Only.’
‘North Carolina, we have the North Carolina political establishment and one RINO senator who have really targeted me are coming hard,’ Cawthorn rambled in the clip.
He posted a summary of his tirade on Instagram beside the video
TSA confiscates a gun from Cawthorn at Charlotte airport
Late last month the congressman’s 9-millimeter handgun was spotted at a security checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in his home state, according to WSOC.
A photo obtained by Channel 9 shows a loaded Staccato C2 handgun.
It was the same day Cawthorn was accused of potential insider trading.
The local police department issued him a citation for Possession of a Dangerous Weapon on City Property, explaining it was standard procedure rather than press charges unless there other felony charges are involved.
It said officers were alerted by the Transport Security Administration that a firearm had been found in a bag at a screening checkpoint.
‘Responding CMPD officers identified the owner of the bag containing the firearm as David Madison Cawthorn DOB: 08/01/1995,’ the department said in a Twitter thread.
‘Mr. Cawthorn stated that the firearm was his and he was cooperative with the CMPD officers.
‘Mr. Cawthorn was released, and the CMPD took possession of the firearm, which is normal procedure.’
Cawthorn’s long-winded Wednesday video also features an apology for that incident.
In this photo obtained by WSOC, Cawthorn is at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after TSA allegedly found a gun in his carry-on luggage
This photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration shows a 9mm Staccato C2 handgun that officials say was found in the bag
‘As a man in a wheelchair who faces death threats, I know the only way I can stand a chance in a life threatening situation is with a gun,’ he said, adding that he carries a weapon ‘almost all the time.’
‘Obviously though, I made a mistake. I forgot to disarm before I went through a TSA checkpoint and that’s my bad and I have to own that one.’
It’s the second time a gun has been discovered on Cawthorn by airport security, the first incident being in February 2021. He was not charged with a crime.
Three traffic stops in five months: Cawthorn’s multiple run-ins with highway patrol
The Congressman’s trouble with the law doesn’t end with guns at the airport, having had three traffic stops in the last five months.
Most recently, he was stopped on March 3 for driving with expired tags — only to be informed he was driving with an invalid license.
He was asked to turn over his license and switch seats with a woman who had been in the passenger seat of his pickup truck, a two-minute thirty-two-second video shared by the Charlotte Observer shows.
Cawthorn was last charged with driving with a revoked license in 2017, though that charge was later dropped, the Observer reported.
An earlier video reported by Queen City News shows a traffic stop in October during which Cawthorn was pulled over for speeding.
‘I do not have my wallet on me,’ the lawmaker says when asked if he had his license.
As in the March incident,, Cawthorn again appeared surprised at being informed he was breaking the rules, with the officer informing him the car was registered to his father — despite Cawthorn claiming it was in his name.
A female passenger gets out of the car to switch seats with Cawthorn, whose license was taken. The trooper helps her get the lawmaker’s wheelchair out of the back
Cawthorn calmly heads to the passenger side of the car, stopping to shake hands with the law enforcement officer
‘It looks like it’s registered to, I guess, your dad,’ the cop says in the video.
Cawthorn replies, ‘Is it really?’
He later reportedly pleaded guilty to improper equipment and paid a $25 fine.
The congressman was also pulled over in January of this year for going 17 miles over the speed limit.
‘I know, I’m driving like an idiot, I’m sorry sir,’ Cawthorn says in the video also obtained by QCN.
He can also be heard informing the officer there was a firearm in the car.
Cawthorn’s Wednesday video features somewhat of an apology: ‘Honestly, this is just really good reporting.’
‘There’s not a lot of narrative to defeat here or misrepresentation, this one was an actual mistake. I’ve been pulled over for speeding,’ he said.
‘My mentality inside the beltway of Washington, DC has always been “all gas, no breaks.” But I just can’t have that same mentality when I’m back home on I-26 here in town.’
He finished the segment: ‘So lesson learned: I’ll slow down on the road but I won’t be slowing down on working to fix Congress.’
It’s not immediately clear which of the traffic stops he was referring to there.
Cawthorn dismissed accusations his ex-wife of eight months is a Russian spy
Days after Cawthorn and his then-wife Cristina Bayardelle announced their mutual decision to divorce, he appeared to take aim at conspiracy theories circulating that Bayardelle was part of a Russian espionage plot.
They married in April of 2021, after four months of dating, only to split in December of that same year.
‘Left-wing losers still bitter over their debunked Russia Hoax are spreading lies about me,’ Cawthorn wrote on Twitter in late December.
‘They love to slam ‘conspiracy theories.’ They are the true conspiracy theorists.’
He shared tweets by pundits, including Occupy Democrats executive director Grant Stern, questioning the story of how Cawthorn met his wife.
Cawthorn told the Daily Caller in 2020 they met at a fake CrossFit competition they were both invited to by a US military captain from Miami who Cawthorn met at a casino in St. Petersburg, Russia on vacation after his 2014 accident.
However gambling and casinos have been banned in Russia since 2009.
Cawthorn’s divorce after only eight months of marriage sparked renewed interest in his story about meeting Cristina Bayardelle
He told the Daily Caller in 2020 that they were introduced at a fake Crossfit competition set up by an American military captain Cawthorn met at a St. Petersburg casino — despite casinos being outlawed in Russia for more than a decade
Cawthorn described being on a trip to Sweden and Norway before taking a ‘boat’ to St. Petersburg with the specific intent of getting ‘$100 each, going to a casino to see how it went.’
‘Later I was down in Miami for work, and he texted me and said “Hey would you like to come compete in a Crossfit competition?” I said — I laughed and said “Well, Todd, I can’t do Crossfit, I’m in a wheelchair”,’ Cawthorn recalled.
‘Todd’ apparently convinced him by saying he could just participate in the pull-up competition.
‘But anyways it all was a sham, it was a fake Crossfit competition, he just wanted to put me in the same room with the girl who would eventually be my fiancée,’ Cawthorn said.
Left-wing pundits questioned his story, with Stern commenting on Twitter: ‘Madison Cawthorn’s divorce just went from boring information to national security concern in about 77 seconds of interview time with the Daily Caller.’
When announcing their divorce late last year, Cawthorn chalked it up to ‘irreconcilable differences’ chiefly fueled by his ascension to Congress.
Cawthorn claims he was invited to cocaine-fueled orgies in Congress
Cawthorn ignited a firestorm of criticism from Republicans in North Carolina and in Washington in late March when he made comments describing ‘sexual perversion’ from members of Congress.
He claimed to have been invited to an orgy and alleged he saw at least one lawmaker do cocaine.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Cawthorn ‘lost’ his ‘trust’ after meeting with the young Congressman last week, claiming his behavior was ‘not becoming’ of his national office.
The Republican leader warned Cawthorn could face consequences if he did not course correct.
Current and former GOP lawmakers demanded that Cawthorn either name names or admit to lying.
The North Carolina Republican, who has not retracted his comments, released a statement blaming Democrats and the media for his controversy.
‘My comments on a recent podcast appearance calling out corruption have been used by the left and the media to disparage my Republican colleagues and falsely insinuate their involvement in illicit activities,’ he said without going into specifics about those comments.
Lawmaker carried ‘multiple weapons’ during the January 6 Capitol riot
Cawthorn admitted that both he and fellow pro-Trump newcomer Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) were armed on the day of the insurrection last year, and that ‘everyone around’ him that day also had weapons, according to a January 6, 2021 interview that was unearthed in mid-March.
The video comes from conservative activist Charlie Kirk’s radio show. In the specific clip it appears Kirk has Cawthorn on the line at the same time rioters had breached the Capitol’s initial defenses and were scaling the walls.
In the newly-unearthed clip, it appears Kirk is in contact with Cawthorn at the very moment Donald Trump’s supporters were storming the Capitol
Asked if he was safe at the moment, Cawthorn said he was, but continued: ‘As you know I believe in the Second Amendment as well as a lot of other members.’
‘So we are armed. We’re in a safe locations — can’t disclose where,’ the GOP firebrand said.
In another portion of the roughly minute-long video, Kirk asked Cawthorn to confirm he and Boebert were armed.
Cawthorn, seemingly hesitant at first, replied: ‘Yes indeed, yes indeed.’
‘So you know, obviously, having the wheelchair I’m able to carry many — multiple weapons at one time,’ he said. ‘So you know, everyone around me is armed’
Video shows Cawthorn calling Zelensky a ‘thug’ two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine
Cawthorn’s infamous cocaine and orgies comments came two weeks after a video surfaced of him calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a thug.
The video was taken roughly two weeks after Russia began attacking Ukraine on February 24.
At the time, Zelensky had already earned international praise for his bravery and leadership through the brutal invasion — which Russia claimed was aimed at ‘denazifying’ Ukraine.
‘Remember, that Zelensky is a thug,’ the 26-year-old freshman Republican Congressman said in the short clip shared by WRAL.
He appeared to be discussing the US sending military aid to Ukraine before lashing out at leaders in Kyiv — who refused to flee the country despite reports that many are on a Russian ‘kill list’ including Zelensky and his family.
‘Remember the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and incredibly evil and it has been pushing woke ideologies,’ he said.
According to CNN, Cawthorn made the comments to a group of supporters in Asheville, North Carolina.
It’s not clear when or where the video of Cawthorn was taken, though local station WRAL notes that the freshman Republican lawmaker had multiple events last weekend
About an hour after the video was first posted, the North Carolina lawmaker condemned Russia’s invasion on Twitter but then stunningly accused Zelensky of pushing ‘misinformation’ to pull Americans into the conflict.
‘The actions of Putin and Russia are disgusting. But leaders, including Zelensky, should NOT push misinformation on America,’ Cawthorn said. ‘I am praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.’
He also linked back to an alt-right newsletter that appears to push anti-western narratives and undermine Zelensky’s leadership.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham distanced himself from Cawthorn’s remarks during a Senate GOP press conference on Thursday afternoon.
‘Like 90 percent of the country is with the Ukrainians,’ Graham said. ‘So when you see a member of Congress say things like this, the one thing I want you to know, they are outliers in the largest sense possible on our side.’
Heye explained to DailyMail.com on Thursday: ‘Nationally, Zelensky is overwhelming popular, so calling him a thug gets him on the wrong side of voters.’
Tillis’ political fundraising arm, Grow NC Strong PAC, recently rolled out attack ads taking aim at Cawthorn’s words and actions that have appeared supportive of Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.
‘Always in the limelight. Now Madison Cawthorn is starring on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin State TV. Putin used Cawthorn’s claims to defend his war crimes while Putin slaughtered innocent Ukrainians,’ the video says according to the Washington Times. ‘Cawthorn voted against banning the Russian oil funding Putin’s terror. Worse than helping our enemies, Cawthorn hurts our heroes. His plan cuts veterans’ benefits by $80 billion. Madison Cawthorn helps our enemies, hurts our heroes.’
Many of the damning leaks about Cawthorn have come from American Muckrakers PAC, a political machine nicknamed ‘Fire Madison Cawthorn.’