Rising GOP star Madison Cawthorn, who sparked a controversy earlier this year over a visit to Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, was elected on Tuesday to represent a North Carolina US House district.
Cawthorn, 25, will be one of the youngest people to ever serve in Congress after his win in the 11th District. He will be filling a vacant seat previously held by Republican Representative Mark Meadows, who left to serve as US President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Cawthorn defeated Democrat and retired US Air Force Col. Moe Davis.
Cawthorn first drew attention after defeating Trump’s preferred candidate in an upset in the June GOP primary runoff.
Left partially paralyzed from a 2014 car accident, he delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in August during which he stood up from his wheelchair with the help of a walker.
In 2017, Cawthorn posted to Instagram photos from a vacation visit to the Eagle’s Nest, the Nazi retreat in Germany that Hitler visited more than a dozen times. In addition to calling Hitler “Führer,” a term of reverence, he said the site was on his “bucket list,” and called Hitler a “supreme evil.”
Cawthorn briefly removed the pictures after an August report by Jezebel, but made them public again shortly after.
Cawthorn tweeted that the criticism was “another fake news controversy.” In defense of the post, he tweeted a photo of grinning Allied soldiers who conquered the Eagle’s Nest in 1945. “They weren’t celebrating evil; they were celebrating their victory over evil,” he wrote.
Another fake news controversy:
When our soldiers were photographed at the Eagle’s Nest in 1945 they were clearly celebrating the Allies triumph over one of the greatest evils in human history. They weren’t celebrating evil; they were celebrating their victory over evil. pic.twitter.com/K4rbSGjYqX
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) August 11, 2020
The Jezebel article also noted that Cawthorn’s real estate business is called SPQR, an abbreviation from the government of the Roman Empire, and that he has displayed the Betsy Ross flag, an early version of the American flag. Both have recently been adopted by far-right groups.
Esther Manheimer, the Democratic mayor of North Carolina’s Asheville, the 11th Congressional District’s largest city, said the Instagram post worried her. She was not alone among the district’s Jews, who said that the post, and the language Cawthorn used, raised alarm bells for them — though not all of them said they were sure the post indicated bigotry on Cawthorn’s part.
An aide to Cawthorn vehemently denied in an interview that the candidate was a white supremacist or at all supportive of Hitler. Andrew Knapp, the campaign’s organizational director, who is Jewish, said that while Cawthorn may have erred in using the word “Fuhrer,” he is not prejudiced, and noted that Cawthorn wrote that Hitler is evil.
“Because there’s such a lack of truth to the accusations, it offends me to see it put out,” Knapp told JTA. “One of the great things about Madison is that he really is a person who looks at the person and not the race, religion, sexual orientation. He’s a religious Christian, so he’s got his beliefs, but he’s a friend to the Jewish community.”
Other Jewish leaders in the area said they were similarly concerned with Cawthorn’s language given the rise of anti-Semitism nationally in recent years.