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McCarthy: Cawthorn ‘did not tell the truth’ about orgy, drug claims

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Feb. 26. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday after meeting with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) that the freshman lawmaker was not telling the truth when he made claims about an “orgy” invitation and alleged drug use among unnamed members of Congress.

Cawthorn’s comments, which he made during a podcast interview last week, had outraged some of his fellow congressional Republicans, leading to Wednesday’s meeting at the Capitol with McCarthy and other House GOP leaders.

“This is unacceptable,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday after meeting with Cawthorn, Axios reported. “There’s no evidence to this.”

McCarthy added that Cawthorn “changes what he tells” and “did not tell the truth,” describing his actions as “not becoming of a congressman.”

Cawthorn was seen leaving McCarthy’s office Wednesday morning after a meeting that lasted about half an hour. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also attended the meeting, according to Politico.

“There’s a lot of different things that can happen. But I just told him he’s lost my trust. He’s going to have to earn it back,” McCarthy told reporters, Politico reported. “I mean, he’s got a lot of members very upset.”

A McCarthy spokesman confirmed the leader’s remarks. Spokespeople for Scalise and Cawthorn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an interview last week with the “Warrior Poet Society” podcast, Cawthorn was asked whether the hit television show “House of Cards” was an accurate reflection of life in the nation’s capital. Cawthorn responded by talking about the “sexual perversion that goes on in Washington” and suggested that he had been invited to an “orgy” by an unnamed lawmaker.

“I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 — you know, I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve always looked up to through my life, always paid attention to politics, guys that, you know. Then all of the sudden you get invited to, like, ‘Oh hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come,’ ” Cawthorn said in the interview, which was reported Sunday by Business Insider. “And I’m like, ‘What? What did you just ask me to come to?’ And then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy.”

Cawthorn also claimed that he had witnessed unnamed prominent figures in Washington doing cocaine.

“Or the fact that, you know, there’s some of the people that are 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 it’s like, this is wild,” he said.

During a weekly closed-door conference meeting Tuesday, several House Republicans voiced anger at Cawthorn’s remarks, Politico reported.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) reportedly stood up at the meeting and told his colleagues that Cawthorn’s comments did not describe House Republicans as a whole, and that some of his constituents have been asking him about the North Carolina lawmaker’s remarks. A Womack spokesperson confirmed that the congressman addressed Cawthorn’s remarks during Tuesday’s GOP conference meeting.

On Wednesday, Womack called on GOP leaders to take action. “Frankly, if western North Carolina is not going to fix the problem, then leadership will have to,” he said, according to Politico.

Some Senate Republicans have expressed frustration about Cawthorn’s comments as well. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called Cawthorn an “embarrassment at times,” while Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said the lawmaker has a “lack of judgment” and had “not done much” for his House district, the Daily Beast reported.

On Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) questioned why Republican lawmakers had voiced anger over Cawthorn’s comments but not over the federal sex-trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

“Not sure why Republicans are acting so shocked by Cawthorn’s alleged revelations about their party,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. “One of their members is being investigated for sex trafficking a minor and they’ve been pretty OK w/ that. They issued more consequences to members who voted to impeach Trump.”

In North Carolina, meanwhile, two of the state’s top Republicans — state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and state House Speaker Tim Moore — are appearing Thursday at a fundraiser for one of Cawthorn’s primary opponents, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, according to an Axios report.

Tillis announced Thursday that he is supporting Edwards as well. In a blistering statement, he criticized Cawthorn by name and said the district “deserves a congressman who is fully dedicated to serving their constituents.”

“Unfortunately, Madison Cawthorn has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives, and voters now have several well-qualified candidates to choose from who would be a significant improvement,” Tillis said. “I believe Chuck Edwards is the best choice.”

Cawthorn, 26, was elected to Congress in 2020 and represents North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. He has become a star of the pro-Trump right and was among the most fervent supporters of former president Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud in 2020.

But his actions and statements have also prompted scrutiny. Earlier this month, Cawthorn was charged for the second time in his home state with driving with a revoked license, an offense that carries a maximum $200 fine or 20 days in jail.

He also faces two speeding citations — one for driving 89 mph in a 65 mph zone on Oct. 18, and another for driving 87 mph in a 70 mph zone on Jan. 8, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

House Republican leaders have been criticized by Democrats — and even some members of their own party — for not taking action against Reps. Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and other GOP lawmakers who have made threatening or extremist remarks.

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