The Daily Mail broke the story yesterday. The footage (above) leaked in late afternoon after it was submitted to the Office of Congressional Ethics by the folks at Fire Madison Cawthorn, which is trying to get the House Ethics Committee to investigate Cawthorn for undeclared loans and gifts to his roommate/lover, Stephen Smith, who Cawthorn claims is his "cousin." He works as Cawthorn's scheduler but we were unable to get a response from him as to whether or not he scheduled Cawthorn's attendance at any of the Republican Party coke-fueled orgies that have made Cawthorn infamous on Capitol Hill.
Anyway, the video shows Cousin Stephen fondling or groping Cousin Madison-- who is not wearing women's clothes-- in a car. Madison appears high as a kite babbling theatrical lines and giggling: "I feel the passion and desire, and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands." Smith blurts out a Hillbilly-sounding "me too" before leaning over and rubbing Cawthorn between the legs.
Cousin Stephen came along on Cawthorn's honeymoon in Dubai when he was briefly married to a biological woman, Cristina Bayardelle of Florida, who quickly divorced him due to non-performance. Cawthorn has gone from blaming all the problems stalking him on the machinations of the radical left to, more recently, his enemies among Republicans, who, naturally enough, he claims are RINOs. Several VENMO receipts-- payments made to Smith from Cawthorn-- are now circulating online and you can judge them for yourself:
One payment made by Cawthorn to Smith and dated June 17, 2018, reads, 'Getting naked for me in Sweden.'
Another made by the representative to his staff member four days later reads, 'The stuff we did in Amsterdam.'
The following day on June 21 Cawthorn made a payment to Smith for, 'The quickie at the airport.'
Four days later Smith makes a payment to Cawthorn 'For loving me daily and nightly.'
One note on a payment made by Smith to Cawthorn on December 13, 2018, reads simply, 'Nudes.'
Keep in my that under House rules, "A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves." In the increasingly unlikely event that Cawthorn survives his primary challenge from state Sen. Chuck Edwards, the House will have to get the the bottom of the nature of the relationship between Cawthorn and Smith. So far Cawthorn isn't denying the sexual aspect, just that other members of Congress would be in trouble if they grew up with cell phones the way he is still growing up.
No one thinks there's anything wrong with Cawthorn being gay-- except that he's been outspokenly homophobic, playing the role of a religionist fanatic and targeting transgender people with extreme animus, mostly before his own cross-dressing photos were leaked to the press. Cawthorn, like other right wingers, has "chosen to exploit Americans’ unfamiliarity with trans people and piggyback on parental anger over the perceived overreach of Covid-era school closures, conflating it with an insidious sense of 'wokeness', in the hopes of finding an electorally viable sluiceway for anti-LGBTQ+ hysteria."
Newly rejuvenated, the right wing is poised to make transphobia and homophobia cornerstones of the midterms and 2024 elections, with promises to deliver “don’t say gay” legislation in states including Michigan and New York.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group, inveighed against the governors of Indiana and Utah for vetoing legislation banning trans women from participating in sports, calling the bills “timely, mainstream protections”. The Republican US representative Marjorie Taylor Greene vowed to introduce a federal “don’t say gay” bill if Republicans win the House this November, only to one-up herself days later by tweeting that for people to be pro-trans is to be pro-pedophilia. The dynamic is one of perpetual ratcheting-up.
What began in Florida could spread nearly everywhere.
Convinced that “there’s a culture shift happening and we need to be focused on survival,” Rhodes-Short and a dozen others co-founded Tear It Up. Modeled on Act Up, the organization that staged die-ins and other aggressive tactics to draw attention to the lack of funding for HIV/Aids, it is simultaneously confrontational and focused on mutual aid.
“While we are under a huge attack, we can see what’s coming in November and the spring and we need to prepare for the next fight. People are running on insane nonsense, like trans people should face a firing squad,” says Rhodes-Short, referring to to Robert Foster, a former Mississippi lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate who said that anyone “advocating to put men pretending to be women in locker rooms and bathrooms with young women should receive the death penalty by firing squad.”
Republican-dominated state legislatures have even begun bringing back North Carolina-style “bathroom bills” mandating that people use the facilities that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.
“That started to supercharge this issue,” says Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney and instructor at Harvard University’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “That’s what DeSantis ran with. It’s the new tactic du jour. You saw Tucker Carlson saying that Disney supports the chemical castration and sexual grooming of children-- stuff you would have heard two years ago and thought it was off the wall. Now it’s going to an audience of 4 million.”
The business-friendly wing of the GOP that would quietly team up with Democrats to scuttle rabidly homophobic bills is now outnumbered, and legislators in a dozen or more states that lean even farther to the right than DeSantis are taking note.
...Indeed, conservatives’ messaging heading into 2024 feels like a hypercharged version of the eternal paranoia that America’s very existence is forever on the cusp of annihilation at the hands of liberals, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people. The far-right One America Network recently called Joe Biden the “groomer-in-chief”, alleging that Democrats are now the party of perversion, gender “mutilation” and an end to human reproduction itself.
This renewed movement, channeling itself through overheated rhetoric about “parents’ rights” that first gained traction during discussions of students masking up, now threatens to undo much of the progress America has made on LGBTQ+ rights over the last 15 years.
This morning in his Washington Post column, Dana Milbank noted that Republicans have only themselves to blame for Madison Cawthorn. After the last month of revelations, Milbank suggests most politicians would resign. But not Madison. A home schooled idiot who flunked out of a "Christian college" after one semester, Madison has nowhere else to go besides the House of Representatives. "It has belatedly occurred to fellow Republicans," he wrote, "that Cawthorn might be a liability. A GOP super PAC launched an ad last week saying Cawthorn tells 'lies for the limelight.' But Cawthorn is a monster of Republicans’ own creation. His character flaws were fully displayed when he first ran for Congress in 2020: nods to white supremacists, extravagant lies, accusations of sexually predatory behavior, overt racism and a long list of driving offenses. Craven Republican leaders knew all that-- and embraced him unreservedly."
Ousting Cawthorn in his May primary won’t cure this Republican illness; the North Carolina congressman is just a symptom. More than 50 QAnon believers have run for Congress as Republicans in 2022, the liberal watchdog Media Matters reports. Several who participated in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, have run for Congress. If Republicans succeed in taking the House in November, the new majority could make the current Congress — with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert and the rest-- look like Periclean Athens.
Cawthorn and the many rising oddballs and extremists are the inevitable result of Republican leaders’ choices: drawing increasingly uncompetitive districts, blessing unlimited dark money, exercising timid leadership, embracing disinformation, flirting with white nationalism, stoking conspiracies and undermining elections.
Cawthorn saw the GOP’s direction-- and did what he had to do to be successful. “I absolutely will run for Congress,” then-19-year-old Cawthorn told the Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2015, a year after a spring-break car wreck in Florida left him in a wheelchair. And so he did, on the basis of audacious lies and winks at white nationalists.
In 2017, he posted photos on Instagram about a “bucket list” trip to Adolf Hitler’s retreat, the Eagle’s Nest. Cawthorn referred to Hitler as “the Führer” (though he did allow that Hitler was “evil”).
As the Asheville Citizen Times, Jezebel and others reported in 2020, Cawthorn named his real-estate company SPQR Holdings, an abbreviated Latin phrase that has been co-opted by white nationalists. In a photo on his campaign website, he posed with a rifle and a pistol in a holster featuring a symbol used by the Oath Keepers. He also used as a backdrop for interviews a Betsy Ross flag, which has also been appropriated by white nationalists. Cawthorn’s campaign attacked a local journalist as somebody who works “for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.”
Then there were the fabrications. Cawthorn claimed he was nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy but his “plans were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident”; the academy rejected him before the accident. He said his friend who pulled him from the burning car instead abandoned him. He called himself the “CEO” of his business, but he was the sole employee and it had no earned income. He misrepresented himself as a full-time staffer of then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), when his most extensive employment was apparently at Chick-fil-A.
On top of that, 150 former students of Patrick Henry College, from which Cawthorn dropped out after a semester, signed a letter accusing him of “gross misconduct toward our female peers,” “predatory behavior” and “vandalism.” And a Christian magazine reported on several women accusing Cawthorn of sexual misconduct. (Cawthorn denied these accusations, too.)
Yet Republican leaders didn’t hesitate to back Cawthorn. Donald Trump, after backing a rival in the primary, endorsed Cawthorn and campaigned for him, saying “You’re going to be a star of the party.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and the Club for Growth helped bankroll him.
The Republican National Committee gave Cawthorn a prime speaking slot at its 2020 convention. And the National Republican Congressional Committee hailed him as a “fighter,” and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy named him a “Young Gun,” the highest level of the party’s program to support top prospects.
Now that their young gun is going off half-cocked, Republicans have only themselves to blame.
Who's sorry now? This is what GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy decided to promote as an official Republican Party Young Gun. McCarthy is now working behind the scenes to get poor-- albeit too vicious for sympathy-- Cawthorn defeated in the May 17 primary. McCarthy would love to see Boebert, Traitor Greene, Gosar and Gaetz defeated as well, but he knows none of them will be and hopes that the example of Cawthorn so ignominiously going down will send a message to the other to start behaving like adults-- or at least adults inside the bounds of how McCarthy defines adults.