Petition seeks resignation of NC congressman who riled crowd before US Capitol riot
Posted January 18, 2021 5:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 24, 2021 6:45 a.m. EST
Washington — Nearly 34,000 people have signed a petition calling on Republican 11th District Congressman Madison Cawthorn to resign for his role in the run-up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.
Cawthorn, 25, who was elected to the district in southwestern North Carolina in November, is the youngest member of Congress and is seen as a rising GOP star. But even some members of the Republican Party say he has gone too far.
Since Election Day, Cawthorn has been one of the foremost promoters of President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
"Get on the phone. Call your congressman," he said during a Dec. 21 speech to the conservative group Turning Point USA supporting Trump’s effort to overturn the election results. "You can lightly threaten them and say, 'If you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn's coming after you, everybody’s coming after you.'"
Later in the same speech, he said. "We were born for such a time as this, and it’s time for us to rise up and fight."
During the Jan. 6 rally near the White House that preceded the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, Cawthorn called fellow members of Congress cowards.
"The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice," he told the crowd.
Moe Davis, a retired Air Force colonel who ran against Cawthorn in November's election, puts him in the same category as U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, two Republicans who led the challenges to Democrat Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
"They encouraged the mob to come to Washington and used that incendiary language. Everyone saw the outcome," Davis said.
Cawthorn did condemn the riot – "It wasn't patriotism, it was thuggery," he tweeted the next day – after he objected to the Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. But Davis said a tweet isn't enough.
"If you put it all in context and then look at the outcome of what happened, you can’t light the fuse and then deny responsibility or accountability when the bomb explodes," Davis said.
Republicans are criticizing Cawthorn, too.
After the riot, former Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin publicly apologized for having endorsed Cawthorn, as did Eddie Harwood, a conservative activist in Asheville.
"Make no mistake: There is blood on his hands,” Harwood posted on Facebook the day after the riot. "He played a role in encouraging the violence and attack on our democracy yesterday.”
"Words mean things, and when they leave your mouth, you cannot bring them back," Erwin wrote in a reply to Harwood's post. Your words can incite or calm. I saw no calming words, and people died and were injured. Our country is an embarrassment on the world stage."
WRAL News has requested an interview with Cawthorn every day for more than a week, but he has refused to respond.