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North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Republican freshman who voted last week to overturn the presidential election results, expressed regret about claims of election fraud in a local TV interview.
"Once you start floating this idea of election fraud and people outright stealing an election and cheating, that has only one outcome,” Cawthorn said in an interview with North Carolina's WTVD-TV news, an ABC affiliate. “The party as a whole should have been much more wise about their choice of words.”
Cawthorn's online advertising has dramatically shifted in tone since before the riot, when he called to "stop the steal." As early as Friday, his ads called for a "GOP audit" to "reset and re-establish."
Before Trump-supporting rioters violently stormed the Capitol Wednesday afternoon and delayed President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory certification, Cawthorn spoke at a rally in front of the White House, leading “USA” chants. That morning, Cawthorn, who at 25 years old is the youngest member of Congress, tweeted “Heart of a Lion, soul of a Patriot.”
Ahead of his election in November, Republicans were worried about Cawthorn’s youth and inexperience. He called Adolph Hitler "the Fuhrer" in a now-deleted Instagram post of him visiting Hitler's vacation home before his election. After the race was called for Cawthorn against Democrat Moe Davis, a former Air Force colonel, Cawthorn tweeted, "Cry more, lib."
In a speech before the riot, Trump called on his supporters to "be strong" and said that "you'll never take back our country with weakness." On Tuesday, Trump didn’t back down from his remarks and called his speech "totally appropriate.”
In December, he urged supporters to “lightly threaten” lawmakers not supporting “election integrity,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
“Call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them and say, you know what, if you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn is coming after you, everybody’s coming after you,” Cawthorn said at a Turning Point USA event, according to the Observer.
After the riot last week, Cawthorn denounced the violence, calling it “thuggery.” In the ABC-11 interview, Cawthorn said he did not support impeaching President Donald Trump but called for rioters to be held accountable.
The riot and Cawthorn’s speech have already cost him at least one prominent local supporter — former Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin, according to the Observer. Erwin, also the the former executive director of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, told the newspaper that Cawthorn “inflamed” the rioters.
After Twitter permanently banned Trump Friday for what it called a "risk of further incitement of violence,” Cawthorn has taken aim at Twitter, saying the social media giant’s move was a “a sickening bastardization of the 1st Amendment.”