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More controversy hits Cawthorn congressional campaign

Young Republican House nominee faces criticism for campaign website’s claims

More controversy hits Cawthorn congressional campaign

Madison Cawthorn (Cory Vaillancourt/Smokey Mountain News)

Madison Cawthorn, a Republican candidate for a North Carolina House of Representatives seat, is facing criticism for an attack website targeting a reporter who had criticized his campaign.

An archived snapshot of the website claimed that a local journalist, Tom Fiedler, was in league with Cawthorn’s Democratic opponent, Moe Davis. The webpage said Fiedler had worked for “non-white males, like [New Jersey Sen.] Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.”

In a statement posted to Twitter last Friday, Cawthorn said he meant to condemn “left-wing identity politics,” and chalked up the race-based accusation in the statement to a “syntax error.”

“The syntax of our language was unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker,” he said. “My intended meaning was, and is, to condemn left-wing identity politics that is dangerous and divisive. I have condemned racism and identity politics throughout my campaign.”

Cawthorn added that the first half of the statement was supposed to be a quote from Fiedler. “In Fiedler’s words, he wanted to work for Booker because Booker was not a ‘white male.’” Cawthorn did not address the part of the statement that said Fiedler wanted to “ruin white males.” 

After the website The Bulwark first reported the statement, the campaign removed the claim that Fiedler works to “ruin white males.” The statement now calls him an “unapologetic defender of left-wing identity politics.”

Cawthorn is currently the GOP nominee to represent North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, whose seat Mark Meadows vacated to become President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Cawthorn beat Republican-established and Trump-endorsed candidate Lynda Bennett in a primary election and is now in a tight race against Davis.

Fiedler runs a local nonprofit news site in North Carolina, AVL Watchdog, which has criticized Cawthorn’s campaign. He previously volunteered for Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign and once said he supported his candidacy in part because the senator had “not enjoyed the privileges of being a white male.”

Over the weekend, Sen. Booker, D-N.J., responded to the report in an interview with HuffPost. He said he took the language personally because his dad was from Hendersonville, N.C., “and I know the grace and goodness of that district.” He added: “It just really personally saddens me that somebody who is so clearly racist is a nominee of a major party, and I think it’s a disrespect of the entire community.” 

WORLD previously reported that several women have accused Cawthorn of sexual misconduct. Cawthorn, a 25-year-old political newcomer, offered an apology to one of the women named in the report and denied that his actions were intentionally aggressive.

On Oct. 17, a group of students from Patrick Henry College (PHC), a small Christian liberal arts school in Northern Virginia, released a public letter disavowing Cawthorn’s candidacy. Cawthorn attended PHC for several months of the 2016-17 academic year. He dropped out before the end of the second semester. (Editor’s Note: Harvest Prude is a graduate of PHC but had no knowledge of the letter before its authors alerted media to it.)

The letter originally had 10 signees, but the list swelled to 176 signees as PHC alumni and students added their names via an online petition.

The letter claims that Cawthorn’s “time at PHC was marked by gross misconduct toward our female peers, public misrepresentation of his past, disorderly conduct that was against the school’s honor code, and self-admitted academic failings.”

It also claims “during his brief time at the college, Cawthorn established a reputation for predatory behavior.”

The letter says Cawthorn had a pattern of inviting female students on “joy rides” in his white Dodge Challenger.

“We remember what Madison Cawthorn did to our community,” the authors wrote. “We remember that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. … And it is because we remember that we will not sit idly by while he is celebrated as the new face of the conservative movement, millennials, and Christians.”

In response, Cawthorn’s campaign posted a statement on his Facebook page claiming a “significant number of PHC alumni and former students who knew him well” were endorsing him. At first, the post included no names, but eventually the campaign updated the post to include the names of six students, including two who now work for Cawthorn’s campaign.

The initial posting also implied that PHC founder and former president Michael Farris had endorsed Cawthorn: It noted Farris had called to congratulate him after he won the primary. 

In a text to another alumnus that was later posted on Facebook, Farris said Cawthorn’s “statement is not true.” He added that he had contacted a member of Cawthorn’s campaign and “told him to have Madison leave me out of it.” The Cawthorn campaign later removed Farris’ name from its statement.

The Cawthorn campaign did not immediately respond to my requests for comment about the PHC alumni letter.

Harvest Prude

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.


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  • AlanE
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 01:37 pm

    I will say that, in general, 25 years old is awfully young to be pursuing an office like the US House of Representatives. Cawthorn meets the stated age requirements but we could have a worthwhile discussion over whether his behavior reflects maturity or immaturity. In any case, I think we've lost something important in that these days we expect candidates to self-select themselves to run for office. The way things are, we get too much ambition and too little common sense.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 09:29 pm

    Harvest Prude is at it again running a hit job attack on a Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn.  Senator Booker is the slime of the Democratic Party attacking Cavanaugh, pushing the Russian Collusion narrative against Trump and fighting against the good in America. And Harvest feels obliged to defend Fiedler who formerly worked on Booker's campaign where he now writes attack articles against Cawthorn and others. I don't see how pushing Democrat candidates helps our Christian cause, nor does pushing the propaganda to defeat Republicans helps us either. 

  • not silent
    Posted: Wed, 10/28/2020 02:38 pm

    Cyborg, I'm a little confused.  Your comment appears to state that the reason this is a "hit job attack" is that the large group of people who are alleging misconduct and/or misrepresentation by Mr. Cawthorne happens to include someone who worked on the campaign of a prominent democratic candidate. However, it seems to me that calling Mr. Booker "the slime of the Democratic Party" and saying he is "fighting against the good in American" could be considered a "hit job attack" against Mr. Booker. 

    Here's the thing: even if Mr Fiedler is the worst kind of attack dog and is out for blood, he's not the only person who is alleging misconduct against Mr. Cawthorne (i.e., the article says there were over a hundred faculty and staff from Patrick Henry College who signed a petition).  Also, based on the article, it looks like Mr. Cawthorne is the one who went on the attack against Mr. Fiedler (i.e. the very first sentence in the article says Mr. Cawthorne is being criticized for an "attack website" targeting Mr. Fiedler and saying he worked for "non-white males" who want to "ruin white males")! 

    Ms. Prude and World are just reporting the existence of the allegations and who is making them. If you have insider knowledge proving that the allegations against Mr. Cawthorne are not true, please let us know and help clear his name. 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Thu, 10/29/2020 11:17 am

    How should a voter respond in this situation? Allegations are dropped just right before the election to destroy the guy. World reporters are oftentimes seen on holy jihads to report on the alleged wrongdoing of ministers and politicians. Obviously, Harvest Prude wants this guy knocked out of the race by here lobbing this report when she did.  Mr. Cawthorn could be a very fine man, a slime ball, or somewhere between. I just don't know but I do know Democrats often use these political attacks to destroy Republicans. Given the garbage that Democrats push like abortion, homosexuality, socialism, destruction of Christian values, and anarchy, I find it better to vote for this guy than his Democratic challenger.  I think Harvest is sincere in thinking the guy is bad but I question what the real truth is - it is probably somewhere in-between. The college kids may well be responding to the reports in the media with little first hand evidence. If it was first hand evidence, it was over five years ago and the guy could well have changed a lot since then. The allegation that he falsely used an endorsement could well be related to an over zealous campaign worker and may have nothing to do with Mr. Cawthorn.  I would prefer to pray for the guy and assume the best when I have incomplete evidence. I think this is the wise Christian approach especially when so much is at stake in these elections.   

  • not silent
    Posted: Thu, 10/29/2020 05:13 pm

    There is a link in this article which goes to a previous article by World in August, and that article addresses SOME of the allegations against Mr. Cawthorne. We are "right before the election" NOW, but World reported on some of the allegations over two months ago! 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 10/31/2020 12:55 am

    Of course Not Silent there is a report out on this guy. It is called a political hit job right before an election to knock out the guy just like you are doing. Shame on you! 

  • not silent
    Posted: Sun, 11/01/2020 01:13 pm

    Cyborg, I get that you find this very upsetting, particularly right before an election.  However, for someone who is concerned about people engaging in "hit jobs," you seem to have no problem making your own false allegations about me and about the writers for World. 

    You are entitled to your opinion about me, of course; and it's okay if you disagree with me.  But I want to make it absolutely clear that I am NOT engaging in a political hit job against Mr. Cawthorne or anyone else (i.e., I'm not deliberately spreading false info to ruin their reputation). To be absolutely clear, I don't know if the allegations against Mr. Cawthorne are true or not.  I DO know that your allegations against ME are false.

     My primary concerns are glorifying God, sharing the gospel-and, to a lesser degree, trying to find the truth in these difficult and confusing times. I am not perfect, and I make mistakes.  Therefore, if you know that the allegations against Mr. Cawthorne are inaccurate or manufactured, please give us all the correct info and clear his name instead of falsely accusing me and World of engaging in a political hit job!  

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Mon, 11/02/2020 03:43 am

    If you are serious about glorifying God, then why do you keep pushing the allegations when you don't know about their truthfulness right before the elections? It does seem like both you and Harvest are pushing your own agenda. I could misunderstand your intentions but your timing is most optimal to bring political damage. 

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 11/02/2020 09:35 am

    I was first made aware that there were allegations against Mr. Cawthorn in August, Cyborg, from the story in World Magazine.  That was THREE MONTHS before the election, not "right before" it.  

    You are free to disagree with me and make your own choices.  I know it can be very hard when things come up and we can't find the absolute truth.  However, my past experience has probably colored my own views.  I live in Florida, and years ago, there was a Republican candidate with a question mark on his record; but I voted for him anyway because I agreed with him politically.  After he was elected, he used his position to enrich himself at the expense of taxpayers; and very little was done about the issue that led me to vote for him in the first place.  I swore I would never again choose politics over character.  

    There was another case where a younger Democrat with support from popular national democrats defeated a prominent Republican incumbent.  It came out right before the next election that he had lied on his resume and misrepresented his qualifications, and no one came from Washington this time to support him.  He lost the election to a different Republican.  

    PLEASE NOTE that my examples included candidates from BOTH major political parties.  I did this to show that for me it IS about truth and character more than politics.  When an elected official has to step down because of scandal, it hurts the party and all its causes.  So I would much rather know if there are potential complications BEFORE an election so that they can be investigated THEN instead of having the whole thing come down on the party, the state or the country later.

  • VolunteerBB
    Posted: Wed, 10/28/2020 04:13 pm

    Yet another story on this guy?  

  • Ann Marshall
    Posted: Wed, 10/28/2020 07:53 pm

    I'm curious why people in North Carolina are anxious to vote for someone so young? See Aaron Schock, Congressman, for one example of how "too much, too soon" can play out on the long haul. The way I see it, any man who needed, less than ten years ago, a Dodge Challenger as a token of masculine identity is still wet behind the ears and shouldn't go to Washington. 

    And oh how true the proverb rings, "a good name is to be desired above riches". 


  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 10/31/2020 12:57 am

    Do you work for the Democratic Party?