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Madison Cawthorn's shady past keeps getting shadier

To my mind, freshman North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn is notable for exactly three things:

1) At 25, he's the youngest member of Congress in history.

2) He's got an extremely fashy background, and keeps landing himself in the middle of various hard right-wing, bigoted, insurrectionist controversies.

3) The more people have dug into his largely credulously reported biography, the more it seems like he's completely full of crap.

To that last point, I'd direct your attention to this just-published investigation in The Nation, in which Cawthorn's claims of having seriously trained to compete in the Paralympic Games are revealed, in the words of actual Paralympic champion Amanda McGrory, to be more "like a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team."

The details of Cawthorn's latest alleged deception — or, most charitably, his grotesque exaggeration — are fairly damning in their own right. (Essentially, his repeated insistence that he was both training for and a serious contender for the Paralympic Games appears to be a mish-mash of lies, obfuscation, and self-aggrandizement.) But what's more notable is how the reporting fits into a larger pattern for Cawthorn — one in which key moments of the inspiring biography that helped propel him into the halls of Congress have been shown to be, well, not exactly true.

Consider this Cawthorn campaign ad, which proudly proclaimed that he'd "planned on serving his country in the Navy with a nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis."

"But all that changed in the spring of 2014 when tragedy struck," the ad continued.

It's a compelling narrative: Patriotic country boy from small-town North Carolina's hopes and dreams of serving his nation are dashed by a tragic car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Only, according to a sworn court deposition from 2017, Cawthorn's rousing story wasn't entirely true. In fact, Cawthorn was forced to admit, he'd actually been rejected by the prestigious military school, and had known that he wasn't going well before his accident. (Incidentally, the person who nominated Cawthorn to the Naval Academy was none other than former North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows, who served as former President Donald Trump's final chief of staff, which is a clear mark of good judgement.)

Or consider Cawthorn's claims to have been a small business owner — the sort of everyman positioning that goes far in conservative politics. Per the Asheville Citizen-Times, Cawthorn's business acumen has essentially been limited to his investment and holdings firm SPQR LLC (an acronym that just so happens has become a shibboleth for white nationalist gangs). Only, SPQR LLC was created in 2019, and Cawthorn is the sole employee. According to Jezebel, that company has been involved in a single real-estate transaction worth $20,000. And as the Citizen-Times notes, prior to that, Cawthorn's work experience was limited to managing a Chick-fil-A and serving as a staff assistant in Meadows's congressional office.

Putting aside then Cawthorn's racial incitement, history of alleged sexual misconduct, and flirtations with far right ultra-nationalism, his short tenure in Congress appears to have been predicated in no small part on a series of falsehoods, mistruths, and coy sins of omission. Maybe that's why he doesn't seem to be getting along too well with his new coworkers?