Photographs obtained by POLITICO appear to show Madison Cawthorn, the embattled Republican congressman from North Carolina who recently accused his GOP colleagues of inviting him to orgies, wearing lingerie in what appears to be a party setting.
Cawthorn, 26, was raised in a conservative Baptist community in Henderson County, North Carolina, and has staked his political persona on arch-traditional Christian principles and the insistence of the importance of a kind of hypermasculinity. His comments about “the sexual perversion” in Washington made on a podcast, which he later admitted were exaggerated, drew the public disapproval and disavowal of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as other Republican leaders including those in his North Carolina congressional caucus.
The revelation of the two photos is the latest in a series of unflattering headlines for the freshman member of Congress in the run-up to the primary in his first re-election bid. The primary in North Carolina is May 17. Cawthorn has seven Republican opponents who see him as vulnerable.
Cawthorn, who was paralyzed from the waist down as a passenger in a car accident in Florida in 2014, in recent months has called Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug,” suggested teetotaling Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has a drinking problem, and racked up a collection of traffic transgressions including speeding, driving with expired tags and driving with a revoked license. He has court dates in May and June.
POLITICO could not independently verify the photos, which are screenshots of original images. They were provided to POLITICO by a person formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign. A second person formerly close to Cawthorn and his campaign confirmed the origin of the photos. The date the photos were taken is unclear, though they appear to show Cawthorn sitting in a wheelchair, indicating the event happened after his accident. In the photos, he is wearing a distinctive pendant necklace that has appeared in other images and videos of Cawthorn. The photos have started to circulate among political rivals.