Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) said he was just "acting foolish, and joking" with "a friend" in response to a video he characterized as the latest hit piece meant to destroy his political career.
The 26-year-old congressman, who has been ensnared in a string of controversies in recent weeks, released a statement Wednesday appearing to confirm the authenticity of a short clip showing him naked in bed atop another man, getting physical and making noises.
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"A new hit against me just dropped. Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it. I’m NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign," he said in a tweet.
A new hit against me just dropped.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) May 4, 2022
Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny.
We were acting foolish, and joking.
I’m NOT backing down.
I told you there would be a drip drip campaign.
Blackmail won't win. We will.
The American Muckrakers PAC, a group trying to achieve Cawthorn's defeat in this year's election, posted the video on its website, FireMadison.com, according to a Charlotte Observer report.
"Blackmail won't win. We will," Cawthorn said Wednesday without elaborating further.
Cawthorn, an unabashed devotee to former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" brand of politics, was first elected to office in 2020 to represent North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, filling a seat vacated by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Last November, Cawthorn announced he would run for reelection in the 13th District but reverted back to the 11th District in February.
A little more than a month ago, Cawthorn drew headlines for claiming that colleagues in Congress were doing cocaine and inviting him to orgies. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Cawthorn, after which McCarthy told Axios that Cawthorn admitted to him that he had "exaggerated" such suggestions.
Last week, officials at the Transportation Security Administration reportedly confiscated a gun from Cawthorn, what would be the second time Cawthorn had been caught trying to bring a gun through an airport since being elected to Congress.
Cawthorn has also faced scrutiny for his use of taxpayer money at a luxury resort and questions about whether he violated insider trading laws. Last week, an ethics group filed a complaint against him that alleges he had an inappropriate relationship with one of his staffers.
The congressman is no stranger to making provocative statements himself. In March, he labeled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a "thug." Last August, Cawthorn declared, "If our election systems continue to be rigged and continued to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place — and that's bloodshed."
Cawthorn's behavior drew a harsh rebuke from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Tillis said Cawthorn, who faces several challengers in his May 17 primary, has "temperament and judgment issues."
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Cawthorn is facing a lawsuit from voters contending that he should be booted from the ballot for engaging in an “insurrection or rebellion” in violation of the 14th Amendment.
A lower court blocked the decision, but that ruling is being challenged in a federal appeals court.