After a week mired in controversy over comments linking fellow Republican lawmakers to cocaine-fueled sex parties, western N.C. 11th District U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn issued a statement blaming the media for misconstruing his words.
“Corruption and unethical activities exist in Washington,” Cawthorn tweeted. “It’s an indisputable fact. If you don’t think that’s true, you’ve not witnessed the Swamp.”
Carolina Journal reported Cawthorn was called into “the principal’s office,” where House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy dressed him down, both in private and in public in front of the media.
Cawthorn did not apologize to his fellow GOP lawmakers for casting aspersions on them and cast himself as a warrior fighting the culture of corruption in Washington. He claimed it was Democrats and the media that made the allegations about cocaine use and orgies, despite the fact he made those claims on video.
Cawthorn complained that others are using his own words to “disparage my Republican colleagues.”
In a video podcast interview, Cawthorn cited “the sexual perversion that goes on in Washington” and said some of his older colleagues had invited him to orgies.
“I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 to 70, and I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life — I’ve always paid attention to politics — then all of a sudden you get invited,” Cawthorn said.
“‘Oh, hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come.’ I’m like, ‘What did you just ask me to come to?’ Then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy,” Cawthorn said.
“The fact there are some of the people leading on the movement to try and remove addiction in our country, and then you watch them do a key bump of cocaine right in front of you. And you’re like, ‘This is wild.’”
His comments brought condemnation and ridicule from both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said Cawthorn should “name names” when asked about the remarks. In implicating no individual specifically, Cawthorn created a cloud of suspicion over all congressional Republicans.
“It does paint the picture here that isn’t accurate,” Crenshaw said. “Name names. Let’s see who he hangs out with.”
“I’ve been here a decade, and besides the fact we’re just cruel to each other, at many levels, it’s one of the most boring places,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona. “Truly, it’s one of the most banal places you can imagine.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, tweeted that voters face a choice between “cocaine or competence” in November.
“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. The culture in Washington is corrupt,” Cawthorn wrote. “Human nature is fallen. Compromising activities occur because when other people can place you in compromising positions, they control you. If you want someone who will throw the entire D.C. swamp into a meltdown because I call out corruption — send me back.”
McCarthy told news media that Cawthorn admitted to embellishing his stories of orgies and cocaine parties.
McCarthy said that Cawthorn lost his trust. Consequences, such as stripping him of committee assignments, were on the table, McCarthy said.
N.C. Sen. Richard Burr called Cawthorn embarrassing. Sen. Thom Tillis endorsed one of Cawthorn’s opponents, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, to replace Cawthorn in the U.S. House. Tillis said it was the first time he has ever endorsed in a primary.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger also held a fundraiser for Edwards this week.
Cawthorn just released a 30-second ad saying “the entire left-wing establishment” was trying to “take him down.”
Cawthorn’s latest controversy was the second that frustrated GOP colleagues in just the last few weeks. After Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Cawthorn was reported calling the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug.”
Cawthorn also recently called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who doesn’t drink alcohol, an alcoholic.
Cawthorn still has former President Donald Trump in his corner. Trump has invited Cawthorn to speak at an upcoming Johnston County rally.
Below is Rep. Cawthorn’s statement in full: