Madison Cawthorn can't escape his web of lies

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North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn does not seem to have a firm grasp on reality. The freshman congressman has had details of his background called into question since bursting onto the political scene as a young Republican who regularly plays footsie with fascist groups, loves Hitler’s vacation home, and encourages supporters to “lightly threaten” lawmakers — and new reporting has poked yet another hole in the heroic facade Cawthorn has created for himself. In a new interview with The Washington Post, Cawthorn’s former close friend, Bradley Ledford, said the congressman lied about details of the 2014 car crash that left him partially paralyzed.

Regardless of the specifics, being involved in an accident that leaves part of your body unresponsive is certainly a harrowing experience. But to hear Cawthorn tell it, he was essentially left for dead. The accident occurred during a spring break road trip; Ledford said in a deposition that, at the time of the crash, Crawford was in the passenger seat with his feet on the dashboard. Ledford, who was driving, fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed the vehicle into a concrete barrier. According to Cawthorn's account, relayed in a 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College, his friend fled the scene and left him to die "in a fiery tomb,” and Cawthorn was initially “declared dead.”

While this story helped to build up his own mythos, Ledford told the Post that it’s basically bogus. In reality, Ledford said that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage (with the help of a bystander) after escaping himself. The Post also obtained an accident report that stated Cawthorn was "incapacitated,” rather than “declared dead.” While Cawthorn had no problem painting such a detailed picture in his 2017 speech, during a sworn deposition (for a court case regarding an insurance claim) given that same year, Cawthorn reportedly said that he had "no memory from the accident.”

That same deposition, which was first reported on by AVL Watchdog, revealed other falsehoods about Cawthorn's background — some of which he leaned into heavily during his congressional campaign. Cawthorn painted himself as someone full of promise, with plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy before the car crash took that opportunity away from him. But in the deposition, Cawthorn admitted to having already been rejected by the Naval Academy prior to the crash.

As Cawthorn continues to prove to be an unreliable narrator for his own story, other voices from his past continue to set the record straight. Over the past week, several women have come forward with stories of sexual harassment and misconduct allegedly carried out by Cawthorn during his time at Patrick Henry College, as reported by BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, and CNN.

“His MO was to take vulnerable women out on these rides with him in the car, and to make advances,” Caitlin Coulter, one of Cawthorn’s former classmates, told CNN. She said Cawthorn asked inappropriate questions about her sexual experiences and when she refused to answer, he got “upset” and "whipped the car around and started going back to campus at 70-80 miles an hour on these one-lane roads.” Two other women gave similar accounts of the so-called "fun rides," telling CNN that Cawthorn used "a lot of sexual innuendo" and made them deeply uncomfortable. Last week, BuzzFeed News reported on interviews with more than three dozen people who detailed Cawthorn's harassment and abusive behavior.

This isn’t the first time Cawthorn has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. In October 2020, more than 150 former students signed a letter condemning the then-congressional candidate for harassment, stating he had a history of “sexually predatory behavior.”

Cawthorn previously denied those allegations, and on Monday, his campaign released a new statement addressing the latest news. "The voters of Western North Carolina responded to these allegations by giving Madison Cawthorn a 12-point victory over his opponent,” the statement read. “Rep. Cawthorn is now busy doing the work he was elected to do including helping our economy recover for the pandemic, creating jobs and opportunity, making health care more affordable, protecting our natural environment and defending life and our Second Amendment rights.” The next day, he went on Fox News to rail against cancel culture because some racist Dr. Suess books will no longer be published. You know, doing the important work.