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WASHINGTON - Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., on Sunday warned there could be "bloodshed" after repeating false election fraud claims.
He also called the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 "political hostages" at a GOP event in Franklin, N.C.
Cawthorn, a freshman, boosted false claims that the election was "stolen" and "rigged" at the Macon County Republican Party event.
“The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” Cawthorn said, according to a video that was posted to Twitter from the event.
"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," he continued. "And I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American."
Several dozen lawsuits challenging the outcome of the election have been dismissed by state and federal judges, and the Justice Department under the Trump administration said it did not find evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
A spokesman for Cawthorn denied the accusations that he was advocating for violence in a statement to the Washington Post.
“In his comments, Congressman Cawthorn is CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions,” Luke Ball said. “He fears others would erroneously choose that route and strongly states that election integrity issues should be resolved peacefully and never through violence.”
USA TODAY has also reached out to Cawthorn's office.
Cawthorn didn't stop there with eyebrow-raising comments.
During a back-and-forth session with attendees, one person asked, "What are you doing to support the 535 Americans that were held ... captured ... in from Jan. 6?"
Cawthorn said there were "criminal activities" going on as his office questioned federal agencies about the rioters. He also said the agencies were giving his office "the biggest run around."
“The main problem is we don’t actually know who all the main political prisoners are,” he said.
"And so if we were to actually be able to go and try and bust them out, and let me tell you, the reason why they're taking these political prisoners is because they're trying to make an example, because they don't want to see the mass protests going on in Washington."
Police officers who defended the Capitol during the insurrection testified before Congress last month. They told harrowing accounts of nearly dying while being swarmed by the violent mob.
Federal prosecutors have charged more than 500 people in more than 40 states in connection with the Capitol riot, and arrests continue almost daily.
The Democratic National Committee lambasted Cawthorn's comments and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a statement Tuesday.
"In any other world, Madison Cawthorn’s abhorrent remarks would be unanimously condemned, and a party leader with an actual spine would hold Cawthorn accountable for suggesting bloodshed," said DNC spokesperson Adonna Biel.
Biel further criticized Cawthorn as "an embarrassment to North Carolinians."
"It raises the question of how long Kevin McCarthy will continue to let his caucus be run by extremists," Biel said.
Cawthorn is the youngest member of Congress and a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump. He spoke at Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally before the chaos at the Capitol exploded. He has continued to push forth baseless claims of voter fraud since Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Madison Cawthorn warns of 'bloodshed' in pushing election fraud claims