WASHINGTON — Freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the North Carolina Republican who campaigned by attacking Democrats and strongly supporting former President Donald Trump, is under scrutiny for renewed allegations that he sexually harassed classmates in college.
According to new details reported by BuzzFeed News and CNN, Cawthorn is accused of making women uncomfortable with questions of a sexual nature and sometimes touching them inappropriately.
The 25-year-old is the youngest person ever sworn into Congress and is considered a rising star in Republican politics after he defeated the Trump-backed candidate in his district.
Here’s what we know about the allegations facing Cawthorn:
What are the claims?
Multiple people who knew Cawthorn when he attended Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, told the outlets that Cawthorn was known for being aggressive and misogynistic toward women he encountered.
Cawthorn attended the Christian college in fall 2016 before he dropped out, citing a broken heart after his engagement ended. Women say he took them on what he called “fun drives” in his Dodge Challenger and then became inappropriate with them.
Caitlin Coulter, one of Cawthorn’s former classmates, told BuzzFeed that she went for a drive with him, during which he asked her increasingly uncomfortable and inappropriate sexual questions and when she declined to answer him, he became upset and suddenly drove the car back to campus dangerously.
“His MO was to take vulnerable women out on these rides with him in the car, and to make advances,” Coulter told CNN.
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Resident advisers also told BuzzFeed that they warned women in their dorms to avoid Cawthorn, especially going into his car with him, due to stories about him making unwanted advances to women when he took them for drives.
Another woman, Katrina Krulikas, told the Washington Post that in 2014 when Cawthorn was 19 and she was 17, she agreed to go on a date with him during which he asked to kiss her and she said no. She said she was seated on his lap in his wheelchair when he moved forward to kiss her.
“And at this point, I’m so startled that I fall back. My hair gets stuck in his chair. I’m ripping my hair out, trying to get out of the situation,” Krulikas said.
Another anonymous alum from the college told BuzzFeed that Cawthorn grabbed her thigh under her dress, which two of her friends verified to the outlet.
What has Cawthorn said in response?
Cawthorn denied allegations of misconduct that came up during his campaign. His team has pointed to a statement at a debate during his congressional run, when he said, “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life.”
Spokesman Jonathan Hart also told the Daily Caller that BuzzFeed’s story was a “mix of half-truths, untruths and potentially fabricated allegations…”
“Madison has no recollection of the anonymous accusation and denies being forceful in the other two circumstances,” Hart told the Daily Caller.
USA TODAY has reached out to Cawthorn’s office for comment.
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 3: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) arrives on the House floor in the Capitol before being sworn in on January 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Both chambers are holding rare Sunday sessions to open the new Congress on January 3 as the Constitution requires. (Photo By Bill Clark – Pool/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775606746 ORIG FILE ID: 1230413834 (Photo: Pool, Getty Images)
Cawthorn faces questions about other details of his life
The allegations of misconduct come as Cawthorn also faces questions about aspects of his life story that were untrue or exaggerated.
Cawthorn said during his campaign that the car accident that left him with limited use of his legs also ended his plan to attend West Point and join the military, but the Post reported that Cawthorn was denied entry to the military academy well before his accident.
The congressman also said at a speech at his college that he was left for dead in his car accident when his friend escaped and fled, and that he was declared dead. But that friend told the Post that he helped pull Cawthorn out of the car. An accident report reviewed by the Post also showed Cawthorn was declared “incapacitated,” not dead.
It was previously revealed that Cawthorn exaggerated his work history. In an Oct. 2 interview with the Citizen Times, a USA TODAY network paper, Cawthorn said he worked full-time on the staff of ex-Rep. Mark Meadows. A campaign spokesman later said he only worked part-time, which is consistent with House spending records.
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