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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 MoeTaxes.com 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.