Controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn Concedes North Carolina Republican Primary

The Associated Press reports the controversial incumbent lawmaker lost the race to Republican Chuck Edwards

Madison Cawthorn
Madison Cawthorn. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Rep. Madison Cawthorn — whose missteps and controversial comments about Ukraine's president and members of his own party generated Republican ire and a bevy of headlines — has conceded his party's nomination for a second term in the House of Representatives, after voters weighed in Tuesday in North Carolina's Republican primary.

Outlets including the Associated Press, ABC News and CNN report that 26-year-old Cawthorn conceded the race to state Sen. Chuck Edwards on Tuesday, after vote tallies made clear that the incumbent freshmen would not win the race.

"I received a call from Congressman Cawthorn just a few of minutes ago, just as I expected he presented himself in a very classy and humble way and offered his support to our campaign in absolutely anyway that we can use him," Edwards told supporters in a call, CNN reports.

The youngest current member of Congress, Cawthorn had the coveted support of former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him for reelection last year and urged voters to send him back to Washington for a second term despite the controversies.

"When Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job," Trump said in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform, according to reports. "Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don't believe he'll make again … let's give Madison a second chance!"

Cawthorn was elected in 2020 to represent North Carolina's 11th Congressional District but announced in November 2021 that he was seeking a second term to fill a new seat created in the state's redistricting process. He switched back after courts struck down North Carolina's new congressional map.

A group of voters in his district hoped to keep him off the ballot, challenging his candidacy due to what they described as his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots. They cited section three of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits public officials who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the United States from holding office and pointed to his speech at a rally near the White House helmed by the former president that preceded the violence.

The challenge also noted that Cawthorn described those who stormed the Capitol as "political hostages" and "political prisoners."

When Cawthorn referred to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a "thug," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other high-profile GOP lawmakers said in March he was "wrong" and an "outlier" in the party.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Zuma/

Cawthorn later clarified his statements through a spokesman who said he was expressing "displeasure" at how foreign leaders "used false propaganda to entice America into becoming involved in an overseas conflict."

Also in March, Cawthorn's comments on a podcast about being invited to orgies in Washington and witnessing fellow lawmakers doing "key bumps of cocaine" sparked more outrage from Republicans.

McCarthy told reporters Cawthorn had lost his trust because the comments were exaggerated or baseless.

"It's just frustrating. There's no evidence behind his statements," McCarthy said after meeting with Cawthorn. "I told him you can't make statements like that, as a member of Congress, that affects everybody else and the country as a whole."

Since the remarks about orgies and cocaine, the headlines continued.

After Politico published images in April of Cawthorn wearing lingerie, he claimed the photos were in jest and said they were taken during part of an activity on a cruise.

Madison Cawthorn
Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

"I guess the left thinks goofy vacation photos during a game on a cruise (taken waaay before I ran for Congress) is going to somehow hurt me?" Cawthorn wrote in a tweet. "They're running out of things to throw at me..."

Days later, the congressman was cited for illegal gun possession after a loaded firearm was found in his bag at a North Carolina airport, according to authorities. It was the second time Cawthorn has been stopped at an airport for carrying a firearm.

Cawthorn addressed a private video that had begun circulating online in early May — this one appearing to show him rubbing his naked body on someone else.

"A new hit against me just dropped. Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny," Cawthorn wrote on Twitter in response to the video.

"We were acting foolish, and joking. That's it," he continued. "I'm NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won't win. We will."

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