“Remember that Zelensky is a thug,” Mr Cawthorn told supporters, a video obtained by WRAL shows. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”
While it remains unclear where the video was filmed, Karl Rove, who served as President George W Bush’s deputy chief of staff, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Mr Cawthorn made the comments over the weekend during an event in Asheville. Mr Rove said he believed that the comments “didn’t reflect Republican opinion”.
When reached by The Independent, Mr Cawthorn’s Communications Director Luke Ball pointed to Twitter statements that “explains what his point was in those remarks”.
“Propaganda is being used to entice America into another war,” Mr Cawthorn tweeted. “I do not want Americans dying because emotions pushed us into a conflict.”
“The actions of Putin and Russia are disgusting. But leaders, including Zelensky, should NOT push misinformation on America,” he added. “I am praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.”
Mr Cawthorn linked to a Substack post by Pedro Gonzalez, who wrote that “Ukrainian misinformation is pointed largely at the West, with outright propaganda promoted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself. Ukraine’s efforts are designed to bring the United States and NATO into the war. Sometimes it is subtle; other times, it is as unsubtle as a hammer hitting an anvil”.
Mr Cawthorn is running for re-election in his western North Carolina district. One of his opponents, Michele Woodhouse, told WRAL that Mr Cawthorn’s remarks were “boorish”, out of touch, and that Mr Zelensky is a “hero”.
Polls show that most Republicans disagree with Mr Cawthorn – 61 per cent of Republicans said in a recent Quinnipiac University poll that they had a favourable view of Mr Zelensky, with six per cent saying they had an unfavourable view and 31 per cent saying they didn’t know enough about Mr Zelensky to form an opinion.
Among US adults as a whole, 64 per cent said they had a favourable view, six per cent had an unfavourable view, and 29 per cent said they hadn’t heard enough about Mr Zelensky.
Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as the White House Director of Strategic Communications under former President Donald Trump, tweeted, “I try not to criticize Madison because he’s my former intern and I think he genuinely doesn’t know how little he knows. But this is disgraceful and not how a sitting lawmaker should speak about a US ally. [Mr Cawthorn] is echoing Russian propaganda”.
Democratic Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego tweeted that it’s “disturbing that he sits in our classified briefings on [the Russia-Ukraine war]. Not sure now that is a good idea”.
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison, tweeted that it was “yet another ‘dim-witted’ statement from the delinquents that run the GOP aka the Party of Putin. Zelensky is fighting for freedom and the lives of his people and this guy is driving around with a revoked license and beating up dead trees”.
Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh tweeted that Mr Cawthorn “is not alone in supporting Putin. Hell, the leader of the GOP supports Putin. The anti-democracy, pro-authoritarian wing of the GOP is not fringe. Not fringe at all. It’s alive and well and growing”.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies