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CAWTHWATCH: Cawthorn takes anti-mask road show across the state

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks to the School Board to oppose a mask mandate.

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn tonight is expanding his tour of school boards to oppose masks, quarantine and critical race theory, traveling to the Piedmont to appear at the Johnston County School Board meeting. More on the trip across the state in a minute.

When Cawthorn appeared on Monday evening at a meeting of the Henderson County School Board he said what everyone who follows politics even superficially would expect. He's against mask mandates, quarantines and critical race theory — and blames the prevalence of those evils on the state's Democratic governor.

"Tyrants thrive when freedom is sacrificed on the altar of safety," he said. "I believe that King George III would be immensely proud of Gov. Roy Cooper. He's running the state with an iron fist, liberty be dammed. He has ripped away your power and your will."

Not satisfied with that declaration, Cawthorn took off into a flight of fancy.

"This School Board did the right thing by voting to stop Roy Cooper's mask mandate," he said. "But our tyrant governor decided he was going to trample on this board's decision, flex his political muscle and run roughshod over the will of our local government — all of you sitting here."

No trample. The School Board — "all of [them] sitting here" — voted on Aug. 2 to make masks optional then voted a week later to reverse the decision. Under current state law, all School Boards have the authority to make masks optional or require them. And it was the School Board, not Cooper, that reversed course — in the face of rising cases of the more transmissible delta variant — on the mask mandate.

He made virtually no news for his comments — even the false one about Gov. Cooper — but plenty of news for apparently packing a knife. Jay Carey, a Democrat who wants to replace Cawthorn busted him for carrying the hunting knife into the meeting, a violation of state law. A combat veteran, Carey made a photo of the sheathed weapon and sent it out in a tweet.

"I’m 100% certain it was a knife," Carey told the Citizen Times. "I was 20 years in the military. Attention to detail is my bread and butter and what kept me alive."

“This is just another example of a long list of behavior that makes Madison Cawthorn unfit for office," Carey said in a news release. "There were children at this meeting, and any one of them could have accessed Cawthorn’s weapon without his knowledge. This was a blatant violation of the law, and when I informed local law enforcement that the Congressman was armed, I was shrugged off. "

(The Henderson County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Thursday saying it won't charge Cawthorn, citing law enforcement discretion to consider the totality of the circumstances.")

Cawthorn's anti-mask, anti-quarantine tour continues today, as we mentioned above, when he travels to Smithfield. Chris Cooper, the politics professor at Western Carolina University and frequent expert commentator on WLOS-TV, has an interesting analysis of the congressman's trip on

Cooper reports on Cawthorn's was scheduled to join a "PARENTS' CHOICE" rally along with Robby Starbuck, a congressional candidate from Tennessee "who once produced the official video for the Spongebob Movie," before imploring the Johnston County School Board to reverse its mask mandate.

"To get from Smithfield to Cawthorn's home in Henderson County, head west and in about four and a half hours (assuming you don’t need to stop for gas or a bite to eat), you’d finally enter the friendly confines of Hendersonville, NC. Along the way, you’ll pass through 6 other congressional districts," Cooper writes.

"So, why would a member of Congress drive hundreds of miles out of his district to join a political novice from Tennessee and a few hundred other protestors to weigh in on a school board decision that doesn’t fall under even the most generous view of congressional power?"

Cooper devotes the next four paragraphs to answering the question, making a strong case that local School Board politics is secondary to the freshman congressman's larger aspirations, which the professor asserts might logically include a run for the U.S. Senate in 2026.

Here's Cooper's kicker:

"In the end, Madison Cawthorn’s visit to a school board meeting hours away from his home will not further his legislative goals or move the policy needle for constituents in his district, but it will further his brand as a national political figure who is, in his own words, 'probably the furthest, most conservative person in Congress.' And that, is precisely the point."