Now that I’m reading through Jesus and John Wayne, it absolutely doesn’t surprise me that a Republican representative would specifically lie about being: 1) really good at business, 2) military material, and 3) a great athlete. It hits the trifecta of masculine prowess and nationalist credibility.
The Ignominious Deceits of Congressman Cawthorn | The Nation
Sara Luterman, for The Nation.
Before January 6, 25-year-old Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) was known for being the youngest member of Congress, an ardent Trump supporter, and one of the few wheelchair users in elected office. Now he is in the headlines for giving a speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally prior to the insurrection at the Capitol that left five people dead. Throughout his short but meteoric political career, Cawthorn has used his disability to tell a story of overcoming: Despite great adversity, he claims to have achieved excellence through grit and physical strength. Many of his campaign ads featured images of Cawthorn intubated and hospitalized alongside videos of him lifting weights and hurtling forward in a racing wheelchair. But his claims of sporting success—like his accounts of education and business acumen—have often been misleading.
Cawthorn became disabled after a 2014 car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down. By Cawthorn’s own telling, he was a successful business owner headed to the Naval Academy before his injury tragically reordered his life. As it turns out, neither claim is true. The Asheville Watchdog reported that Cawthorn had already been rejected from the Naval Academy before his accident. And Cawthorn’s real-estate investment firm, SPQR Holdings LLC, which he only formed in August 2019, reported no income on its tax documents, and Cawthorn was the sole employee.
But he has not only styled himself as Naval Academy material with a head for real estate. Multiple outlets reported that before he ran for office, Cawthorn was training for the 2020 Paralympic Games. There is little detail, but according to Micah Bock, Cawthorn’s campaign communications director, he intended to compete in the 400-meter dash at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. It would have been an incredible footnote in a politician’s biography: Paralympians are celebrated and accomplished athletes. But his hopes for the Paralympic Games, now slated for summer 2021, were allegedly dashed by his worsening disability.
Cawthorn frequently said on social media that he was “training” for the Paralympic Games. Technically, such a statement could be true—but only in the sense that I could be training for the Olympic Games. “It’s like a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team,” said Amanda McGrory, a three-time Paralympian who has earned seven medals in track and field. Cawthorn stated on the Christian inspirational podcast The Heal, “I had an opportunity for the Paralympics for track and field.” He did not have that opportunity, nor does it appear he took any meaningful steps that would have led him there.