Analysis: Madison Cawthorn is *really* good at getting bad press

You could be forgiven if you thought the North Carolina Republican had been around a lot longer — based solely on the amount of negative press he’s been able to generate.

The latest episode came Tuesday, when Cawthorn was cited for bringing a loaded handgun through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Charlotte airport. (Yes, I said a LOADED handgun.) Cawthorn did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
That isn’t even the first time since he’s been in Congress that Cawthorn has had this problem. Agents at the Asheville Regional Airport found an unloaded gun and a loaded magazine in Cawthorn’s carry-on bag in February 2021. A Cawthorn spokesman told the Asheville Citizen-Times when the paper published a story about the incident in July 2021 that the congressman had had brought the gun “by mistake.” Cawthorn was not charged.

The two gun incidents are part of a truly remarkable run of bad press for Cawthorn, who became a national figure in 2020 when he beat Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate in the race to replace White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Consider:

* Cawthorn claimed in March that he had been invited to an orgy during his time in Washington and had seen leaders in the anti-drug movement doing cocaine. After meeting with Cawthorn in the wake of the allegations, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that the North Carolina congressman “did not tell the truth. That’s unacceptable.”
* That same month, CNN reported that Cawthorn was facing charges of driving with a revoked driver’s license. It was the second time in the last five years Cawthorn had faced that charge.
* Cawthorn also drew negative headlines in March when a video surfaced in which he referred to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “thug” and said that the Ukrainian government was “incredibly evil.”
*In March 2021, CNN reported on a series of allegations of sexual misconduct made against Cawthorn by women who said he behaved inappropriately to them during his college years. Cawthorn has denied any wrongdoing.
There’s more, but you get the picture. (I’m not going to even get into the lingerie photos.)

In a very short period of time, Cawthorn has received a lifetime’s worth of bad press and caused a mountain of distraction for House Republicans who are trying to back the majority this November.

“It comes down to focus on the district, producing results for the district, and in my opinion, Mr. Cawthorn hasn’t demonstrated much in the way of results over the last 18 months,” North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who has endorsed state Sen. Chuck Edwards, one of Cawthorn’s GOP primary challengers, told CNN recently.
in to new ad Released this week ahead of the May 17 primary in North Carolina, Edwards takes aim at Cawthorn, describing him as “Instagram famous.”

“They show us their workout, what they eat, where they go. But they accomplish nothing,” Edwards says in the ad while images from Cawthorn’s Instagram account appear on screen. “While they post online, America falls apart.”

While House Republican leaders have stayed out of the primary to date, you can bet that they wouldn’t miss Cawthorn — and all of his negative press attention — if he comes up short on May 17.

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