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How much did Rep. Madison Cawthorn exaggerate his Paralympic quest in 'absurd' social media claims?

Nick Bromberg
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Are Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claims that he was seriously training for the Paralympics a fabrication?

The freshman Congressman from North Carolina has previously posted to social media about training for the Paralympic games. There’s even a two-minute video posted to YouTube in 2019 about his alleged pursuit to participate in the 2020 Paralympics.

But according to multiple people involved with United States Paralympics and interviewed by The Nation, Cawthorn’s training for the Paralympics went further on social media than it did in real life.

In a story published Friday, The Nation talked to people who had no recollection of Cawthorn’s attempt to make the postponed 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo despite his repeated claims on social media that he was training for the games.

The college Cawthorn briefly attended does not have a sports program for people with disabilities and there are no other records of him attempting any qualifying events. Cawthorn’s name isn’t even in the International Paralympic Committee athlete database. All elite Paralympic athletes are in that database.

From The Nation:

In addition to not being on a team, Cawthorn does not appear to have competed in any qualifying races. Robert Kozarek, a former elite wheelchair marathoner, said he would have met Cawthorn at some point if he had been serious competition. Kozarek himself never qualified for the Paralympic Games. “The community itself is small. There’s probably 50 [elite wheelchair racers] in the entire country, and we see each other four, five, six times a year, at least.”

Cawthorn’s ‘absurd’ social media training claims

Paralympian Brian Siemann even called Cawthorn’s social media claims “absurd” in the story. Cawthorn, 25, posted multiple times to Instagram in 2019 about his alleged pursuit of Paralympic glory.

He even posted a picture of himself in front of the logo and a countdown clock for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in 2019.

He also claimed that he was chasing after the 100-meter wheelchair record. In the video below, he mentions a “U.S. Open.” The Nation story notes there is no event by that name.

While Cawthorn’s claim that he was chasing the world record may not be technically incorrect —there are world records we all would like to break, right? — the evidence in the story makes it a specious claim that Cawthorn wanted his social media followers to take seriously.

Hours after The Nation story was published, a government watchdog filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn regarding any potential role that he had in the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Cawthorn’s other misleading claims

Cawthorn’s alleged serious Paralympic training isn’t the first time that he has embellished claims about his personal history.

Cawthorn has been in a wheelchair since a 2014 car crash. He repeatedly said while campaigning for Congress that his plans to go to the Naval Academy were “derailed” by the crash. However, he admitted in a sworn deposition in 2017 that his application to the school had been rejected before the crash.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-NC, arrives on the House floor in the Capitol in Washington, DC, before being sworn in, January 3, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BILL CLARK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-NC, has previously said he was training for the Paralympics. (Photo by BILL CLARK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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