Kevin McCarthy is to blame for Madison Cawthorn. He deserves the consequences

McCarthy refused to punish Republicans when they insulted Democrats. Why did he think they wouldn’t eventually attack their own party?

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Thursday 31 March 2022 17:18 BST
Election 2022 North Carolina Cawthorn
Election 2022 North Carolina Cawthorn (House Television)

On Wednesday, the House Minority Leader unloaded on Representative Madison Cawthorn after the freshman Republican from North Carolina alleged on a podcast that members of Congress participated in orgies and did “a key bump of cocaine right in front of you.”

“In the interview, he claims he watched people do cocaine. Then when he comes in he tells me, he says he thinks he saw maybe a staffer in a parking garage from 100 yards away,” McCarthy told reporters, according to Axios.

Cawthorn’s salacious comments were of course nothing new. In the past, he has lied about being a Paralympian and, claimed that when he was in the car wreck that left him paralyzed, his best friend abandoned him to a “fiery tomb” (his friend says he pulled him out of the car) and that he was “declared dead” (police records say he was “incapacitated”.) He lied about House Speaker Nancy Pelosibeing an alcoholic when Pelosi doesn’t even drink alcohol. To add to this litany of reputationally damaging facts, Cawthorn also spoke at the Stop the Steal Rally ahead of the January 6th insurrection and was charged for driving with a revoked license.

But the final straw for McCarthy was that Cawthorn dared to impugn the character of a caucus that includes the likes of Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. Cawthorn had already found nearly every way to embarrass both himself and the North Carolinians he represents — but calling his fellow Republicans cocaine addicts who engage in group sex was a step too far.

It should be noted that this is only the most recent “talking-to” that McCarthy has had to have with one of his members. He said he would speak with Greene and Gosar after they spoke at a white nationalist gathering, but so far there have been no other consequences. He also reportedly met with Greene after she got into a very public feud with fellow Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

But he has also defended the reprehensible behavior of some of these same Republican members. When Gosar posted a video of an anime that had his head doctored onto a character that killed a character with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s head on it, McCarthy opposed his censure and instead huffed about Democrats. Even more disgracefully, after the censure, which included stripping Gosar of his committee assignments, McCarthy said that he would get their committee assignments back if the GOP won back the majority. He refused to punish Boebert after she essentially called Ilhan Omar a terrorist and after she heckled Joe Biden during his State of the Union address while discussing his late son Beau.

It should be noted that McCarthy, while being wholly unable to perform the most basic aspects of leading his caucus, does actually know right from wrong. He led the charge to have the House GOP caucus strip Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee assignments after he made disturbing remarks about white nationalism, even when Republicans like Paul Ryan and John Boehner refused to. That ultimately torpedoed King and led to him losing his primary in 2020. McCarthy also shouted at Donald Trump and begged him to call off the mob on January 6, reportedly asking him, “Who the f**k do you think you are talking to?” He later said Trump bore responsibility for the riot.

But that makes his refusal to punish Republicans appear even more cowardly. Let’s remember that when he wants to, he does use the power of congressional leadership to squeeze a member. He did it when he backed Liz Cheney’s ouster from House Republican leadership. He has also backed her primary challenger, all but guaranteeing Cheney will lose to Harriet Hageman.

Still, it appears that despite his consistent bending to the most extreme elements of his party, nobody appears to respect McCarthy. Gosar and Greene continue unabated. This weekend in Georgia, Matt Gaetz — who represents Florida and every man over the age of thirteen who still thinks Axe Body Spray will magically attract women — said he would nominate Trump as House Speaker. All this kowtowing has done very little for McCarthy’s rep among those who seems desperate to please.

McCarthy’s refusal to impose even the bare minimum punishments on his caucus are now having the exact consequences one would expect. By refusing to punish Republicans in the name of providing a unified front against Democrats, he has let the worst elements of his party paint the entire GOP caucus as sex-crazed deviants with flecks of white powder under their nose. Now, he is trying to rub them out like Lady Macbeth with blood on her hands, screaming Out, Out, Damn Cawthorn. But he cannot remove the stains that he has allowed the extremists, the ravers and the insurrectionists to pour all over his caucus.

In that sense, McCarthy deserves everything Cawthorn has said about the House GOP. It’s mightily difficult to feel sorry for him now.

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