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Cawthorn lands in the middle of Capitol insurrection story

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks at the 'Save America' rally on Wednesday, Jan. 6. [YouTube screenshot] U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks at the 'Save America' rally on Wednesday, Jan. 6. [YouTube screenshot]

Madison Cawthorn, installed Sunday as the representative in the 11th Congressional District, wasted no time making national headlines.

Although Cawthorn on Thursday condemned the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five deaths and expressed sympathy for the family of the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died in the melee, he's owning no responsibility for stoking the emotions of the crowd that marched from the White House rally to the iconic symbol of the U.S. government, shattered windows, crashed through police lines and trashed offices.

“I don’t feel I had any responsibility for them attacking the Capitol,” Cawthorn, 25, told WLOS. “It was despicable. They are thugs.”

Cawthorn did condemn the statement by President Trump that most directly led to the riot. “I do believe that saying we needed to march down to the Capitol was a mistake on behalf of the president," he said. "Any of my supporters who are thinking about trying to take democracy in their own hands and storm the Capitol again, I have to say they do not support the same type of politics I support."

His messaging before the deadly Capitol takeover was more combative.

“January 6th is fast approaching, the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few,” Cawthorn tweeted on Monday night. “Get ready, the fate of a nation rests on our shoulders, yours and mine. Let’s show Washington that our backbones are made of steel and titanium. It’s time to fight.”

Cawthorn then appeared among other speakers praising the throng of Trump supporters who had begun gathering as early as 3 a.m. Wednesday for the "Save America" rally at the Ellipse.

“This crowd has some fight in it,” Cawthorn said. “And I am so thankful for each and every one of you."

"My friends, I want you to chant with me so loud that the cowards I serve with in Washington, D.C., can hear you," he said as he prepared to leave the stage. "While I leave, let's get a chant so Donald Trump knows who supports him, USA, USA, USA!"

On Thursday night, Cawthorn struck a conciliatory tone toward the family of the officer who died in the riot.

"I am deeply saddened to hear a Capitol Police Officer has died due to yesterday’s assault on the Capitol," he said in a tweet. "My prayers go out to the officer’s family. Those responsible for the officer’s death must be prosecuted. What occurred on Capitol Hill was a perversion of patriotism."

Constituents on Twitter were less than sanguine about the statement.

"Will you send the family a card, perhaps with a floral arrangement? That would be a nice touch, and may the Lord bless you for your compassion here, Madison," George "New Tone" Ladshaw wrote. "Pro-tip: one thing to leave OUT of your note would be a printed timeline of your own comments leading up to Jan. 6th."

"You incited that riot with your rhetoric," Viv Bernstein wrote. "Your actions directly led to five deaths, including the loss of a police officer. Those deaths are on your hands. The only honorable thing for you to do is #resign @CawthornforNC."

That's highly unlikely.

By Friday night, Cawthorn was back in the Twitter trenches, ripping the decision by Twitter to ban President Trump from using  his favorite virtual megaphone.

"When you tear out the tongues of those who speak against you, you are not proving them liars," Cawthorn wrote. "Instead you are proclaiming, on the altar of oppression, that you are crippled by fear of what they might say."
On Saturday initiated an online petition demanding that Cawthorn resign or be expelled from the House.

"Madison Cawthorn was one of the Representatives who took part in Trump's rally to incite the mob to attack Congress," the petition said. "As a resident of NC's 11th District, I demand that he be censured and/or expelled from Congress. Mountain people do not want this kind of thoughtless, irresponsible person speaking for us on the national level. Cawthorn must go."

On Monday morning the petition drive had generated 2,788 signatures.

Responding on Monday to the Hendersonville Lightning's request for comment on calls for his resignation, Cawthorn's office released an updated statement.

"Unlike NC-11 Democrats, Madison Cawthorn condemns mob violence under any banner," it said. "NC-11 Democrats were silent when left-wing mobs attacked civilians, businesses, and law enforcement in Asheville. They have no moral authority to speak up now when they were silent then. 

"Cawthorn has condemned the abhorrent violence on January 6. He has criticized President Trump for directing protestors toward the Capitol and repeatedly told protestors that the legal pathway to address their concerns was through debate on the house floor, by their elected representatives, not violence in the streets of the Capital. Principled conservatives disagreed about the 2020 election. But debating whether Congress should accept or reject electoral votes in states that may have ignored their own laws was entirely appropriate and legal under our Constitution."