Embattled U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn vowed that “blackmail won’t win” after an opposition group released a video appearing to show the North Carolina Republican naked in a bed and making thrusting motions on top of another person.
“Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny,” Cawthorn, 26, said Wednesday night on Twitter, shortly after the video began circulating on social media.
“We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it,” Cawthorn said.
The video, details of which have not been independently verified by CNBC, was released less than two weeks before the Republican primary election in Cawthorn’s district. The youngest member of Congress, Cawthorn has racked up a list of scandals and controversies in his freshman term that have prompted scolding and outright opposition from some of his fellow Republicans.
“I’m NOT backing down,” Cawthorn’s tweet said. “I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will.”
The video was released by American Muckrakers, a political action committee that operates under the banner Fire Madison Cawthorn and is bent on damaging his candidacy.
The group said the video was provided by “a former Cawthorn supporter and big donor who asked to remain anonymous.”
“It pains us to post it but in the public and voters interest we chose to do so,” the group said, just above an all-caps link urging viewers to “WATCH THE VIDEO OF REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN MADISON CAWTHORN DRY HUMPING SOMEONE’S HEAD AND MOANING LOUDLY HERE.”
Republicans are hoping to regain the House and possibly the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections, and incumbents tend to hold major advantages over their electoral challengers. But Cawthorn’s distractions have spurred criticism from within his own party — especially after he claimed in a March podcast interview to have knowledge of lawmakers doing drugs and inviting him to orgies.
“He’s got a lot of members very upset,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said at the time.
Last week, Cawthorn was cited on a misdemeanor criminal charge after he brought a loaded handgun to a North Carolina airport. It marked the second time Cawthorn was caught with a gun in an airport.
Cawthorn said he “made a mistake” by leaving the weapon in his carry-on bag, but the latest incident prompted House Democrats to call on the Transportation Security Administration to crack down on similar offenses.
That same week, Sen. Thom Tillis, a fellow member of North Carolina’s Republican delegation, called for an investigation after ethics watchdogs raised suspicions of possible insider trading related to Cawthorn’s involvement with a cryptocurrency.
Tillis has endorsed Cawthorn’s primary challenger, and a Tillis-tied super PAC reportedly spent more than $300,000 on ads that attacked Cawthorn.
He had also come under fire after the Asheville Citizen Times reported in March that Cawthorn was charged with driving with a revoked license for the second time.
Cawthorn also lashed out at Politico last month after the outlet published photos of him posing in lingerie at a party. He said the photos were taken during a game on a cruise before his election to Congress.