Freshman congressman who said 'it's time to fight' now condemns riot

Newly elected Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn condemned the violence at the Capitol earlier this week after encouraging his supporters to fight in the run-up to the insurrection.

The North Carolina congressman spoke at the rally held Wednesday morning before the Trump supporters marched to Congress and ransacked the building, resulting in the death of one Capitol Police officer and four insurrectionists.

“This crowd has some fight in it,” Cawthorn said. “And I am so thankful for each and every one of you.”

Cawthorn, 25, had stated in advance of Jan. 6 that he planned to object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, lending support to President Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. In a Dec. 31 video explaining why he was objecting, Cawthorn said, “Voter fraud is common in America,” which has been disputed by multiple investigations, including the administration’s own commission that looked into the 2016 election and disbanded without finding any irregularities worth reporting.

“January 6th is fast approaching, the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few,” Cawthorn tweeted late Monday. “Get ready, the fate of a nation rests on our shoulders, yours and mine. Let’s show Washington that our backbones are made of steel and titanium. It’s time to fight.”

On Tuesday, Cawthorn tweeted out an image that included the hashtag #StopTheSteal, a rallying cry for Trump supporters who have been told by leaders that Democratic officials and rigged voting machines are responsible for Biden’s 306 electoral votes and 7 million-ballot margin in the popular vote.

Rep Madison Cawthorn speaks into a microphone on stage in front of American flags while pointing
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks as supporters of President Trump gather by the White House on Wednesday. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Two days later, Cawthorn said his rhetoric had nothing to do with the violence in Washington.

“I don’t feel I had any responsibility for them attacking the Capitol,” Cawthorn told WLOS, a North Carolina ABC affiliate. “It was despicable. They are thugs.”

“I do believe that saying we needed to march down to the Capitol was a mistake on behalf of the president. Any of my supporters who are thinking about trying to take democracy in their own hands and storm the Capitol again, I have to say they do not support the same type of politics I support,” Cawthorn added.

The congressman, a primetime speaker at last summer’s Republican National Convention, has been criticized for comments he’s made about Adolf Hitler, lying about his acceptance into the Naval Academy and racist attacks against a journalist. Cawthorn is among the many Republicans who spread disinformation for weeks that Biden’s victory was fraudulent, often fundraising off the claims. That same group — including prominent leaders like Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — has refused to take responsibility for Wednesday’s siege.


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