Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) is no stranger to scandal. But this time he may not be able to wiggle his way out of it.
Cawthorn has been a thorn in Republicans’ side since being elected, but this may make him toxic to his GOP constituents. A group has requested an ethics investigation, alleging he has an inappropriate relationship with Stephen Smith, a male staffer, who is also his third cousin.
After Cawthorn alleged that other Republican members of Congress invited him to orgies and offered him cocaine, his GOP colleagues reacted angrily and after a tongue-lashing from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R), Cawthorn backtracked and said he had “exaggerated.”
Now people are wondering how big of a hand his fellow lawmakers had in this. Are they trying to use homophobia to get him out of office?
The group known as Fire Madison Cawthorn filed the complaint and they included photos, video, and screenshots of the men’s Venmo history to prove their point. They allege that Cawthorn has given or loaned Smith thousands of dollars.
The two have been inseparable for years, the group alleges, and have lived together for a long time. Smith joined Cawthorn on his honeymoon in Dubai following the then-candidate’s sudden marriage to his girlfriend after he was accused of sexual harassment. The two had not been dating long and divorced shortly after Cawthorn was elected. Smith continues to live with Cawthorn.
The video shows the men laughing in a car as Cawthorn says in a fake accent, “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.”
“Me too,” Smith replies, before touching the congressman’s crotch briefly.
The two have also posted steamy Instagram photos with their arms around each other. The videos and photos were published by The Daily Mail.
The Venmo transactions list descriptions from Cawthorn like “the quickie at the airport,” “the stuff we did in Amsterdam,” and “getting naked for me in Sweden.” Smith’s payments to Cawthorn include “for loving me daily and nightly” and “nudes.”
The video, photos and descriptions could all be potentially explained as “bro” behavior between two young and immature men.
And, frankly, Cawthorn’s history would support that. He has been cited twice for trying to board a plane with a loaded handgun, twice for driving without a license, accused of insider trading of a meme cryptocurrency, sexual harassment, lying about his background, the car accident that left him paralyzed, and putting other members of Congress lives in danger. He has been a dedicated supporter of former president Donald Trump’s big lie and the MAGA insurrection. A photo of Cawthorn wearing women’s lingerie on a cruise ship was leaked last week.
“He’s got temperament and judgment issues,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) raged. The senator has endorsed a primary challenger to Cawthorn, a rare event in political circles.
“There have only been two times in my brief political career where I’ve endorsed a challenger to a sitting Republican. One was Chuck Edwards, the other one was me when I challenged a two-term Republican in the statehouse.”
“I want a delegation that works together,” Tillis told Politico. “I don’t want a delegation that gets together – minus one – and talks about the challenges that member is causing.”
But the complaining group’s co-founder, David Wheeler, says their investigation started earlier than the other scandals.
“This all started pre-lingerie, pre-speeding, [and before] the guns…there’s been a deluge of things recently but [Cawthorn’s behavior] is not recent. He’s been doing this stuff for a while,” Wheeler said. “We stick to the facts. We don’t do conjecture. Essentially what’s happened is he’s been violating House ethical rules first of all by providing free housing for one of his staff.”
“You can’t gift more than $250 to a friend and House rules say you can’t give gifts to other House staff. But it’s tens of thousands of dollars because the guy – Stephen L Smith – has lived in his [Cawthorn’s] house here in Hendersonville at least since he took office.”
In response to the allegations, Cawthorn simply replied, “Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands.”