The brief career of the 25-year-old conservative, the youngest lawmaker to enter the House of Representatives, has been peppered with controversy.
They call him the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the extreme right. Like her, Madison Cawthorn is a rising star in her party, in this case the Republican. In addition, at 25, he has taken the title of youngest congressman in the House of Representatives from Democratic politics. Cawthorn claims that he has thrown himself into the political arena for her, but to combat her proposals, and has won the conservative 11th District of North Carolina defending the idea that American faith, freedoms and values are being attacked by “the coastal elites and leftists, ”a reference to the representative from New York. In his brief political career, he has already accumulated several controversies for racist statements that he has tried to clarify, and for manipulating his curriculum.
But that hasn’t stopped their rise. Cawthorn, with light eyes and perfectly cut blonde hair, comfortably won a Republican primary to qualify for the vacancy left by Mark Meadows in the House of Representatives when he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Donald Trump Administration. Cawthorn’s triumph was not discussed but it was surprising, especially for the leadership of his party. Both Meadows and the American president had campaigned for Cawthorn’s rival, who previously worked as a real estate agent. That victory sparked interest in him and his political capital skyrocketed. Such was the potential they saw in him that last August they invited him to give a speech at the Republican National Convention, the major league event of the party where Trump’s candidacy was made official.
Cawthorn, who defines himself as a “constitutional conservative,” anti-abortion and pro-gun, was in a car accident at age 18 that nearly cost him his life and left him in a wheelchair. At the Convention he spoke about how to overcome adversity, about the overwhelming force of youth. He gave a couple of examples of great heroes of the country who played an important role when they were still in their twenties. “My personal favorite is James Madison, who was 25 when he signed the Declaration of Independence,” he said. Madison never signed the document. At the end of the speech, with the help of two agents, and while referring to God’s blessing, he stood up. With a parade of American flags in the background, he looked like an ex-soldier.
He grew up in Hendersonville, a town of 14,000 in the North Carolina district that he will now represent on Capitol Hill. He was homeschooled and then began studies in Political Science at Patrick Henry College, an evangelical school in Virginia, but dropped out after one semester. Before his dip into politics, he was the sole owner and employee of a real estate company called SPQR, LLC, that has reported no income, according to a financial disclosure form he signed before running for Congress. In the video posted on the website of his campaign for Congress, a narrator with a deep voice says that the candidate had options and an endorsement to enter the Naval Academy, but that his plans “were derailed” after the car accident. However, in a 2017 statement, Cawthorn admitted that his application to the Academy had been rejected prior to the accident.
This manipulation has cost him criticism, but what has catapulted him to national headlines has been accusations of racism. This happened last October, after he attacked a journalist on his website for working “for non-white men, like Cory Booker, who wants to ruin white men who are running for office.” After receiving an avalanche of reproaches for his racist comment, including that of Senator Booker, the then candidate excused himself saying that it had been a “syntax error” and deleted the message. He then condemned white supremacism and racism, noting that his fiancee, personal trainer Cristina Bayardelle, is mixed race. He asked his opponents if they think it possible that he is racist and hates his future children.
Another post he deleted over the summer was a post who uploaded to Instagram about his visit to the Eagle’s Nest, Adolf Hitler’s fortress in Berchtesgaden (Bavaria). In the caption of the photograph, Cawthorn referred to Hitler as “the Führer” and claimed that the visit to the place, which was part of his “wish list”, had not disappointed him. It also mentioned that the Nazi leader was the “supreme evil,” but the above references raised enough blister for him to remove the post.
The controversies mattered little to Trump. During the campaign he was seen with the young candidate a couple of times at the Trump Hotel in Washington and, according to Cawthorn, the US president even asked him for advice. “I’m sitting with the phone in my hand and I say … That’s the president of the United States, asking my advice. I’m 25 years old. This is crazy, “he told the portal in an interview. Politico. Now the president will have to leave the White House after one term, and he is the youngest congressman since 1965.
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