Republican Madison Cawthorn, a congressman from North Carolina, was criticized by lawmakers in Washington D.C. on Thursday for calling the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil.”
“Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt, and it is incredibly evil and it has been pushing woke ideologies,” Cawthorn stated, according to CNN. “Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug.”
Cawthorn’s statements, which echoed former President Donald Trump’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, received swift condemnation by his peers at the Capitol, even from his own party.
Responding to Madison Cawthorn’s opinion that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a “thug,” the Republican Party distanced itself from the shocking rhetoric, forming rare bipartisan praise for Zelenskyy and Ukraine.
“To my colleague in the House [Cawthorn], I would push back and say it’s not Ukraine that is invading Russia,” Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst stated in response. “It is Russia invading Ukraine.”
“Let’s be clear. The thug is Vladimir Putin,” North Carolina Sen. Chuck Edwards wrote on Twitter. “We must unite as a nation to pray for President Zelenskyy and the brave people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and their freedom. Anything less is counter to everything we stand for in America.”
The bipartisan stance against Russia is a sharp rebuke of the position held by their former leader, Donald Trump, who spent a great deal of his presidential term cozying up to Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Nevertheless, the former President continues to impact a large swath of the Republican base, with many hopefuls in the upcoming primary elections running on platforms that include overturning the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
Back in 2019, when Donald Trump was in impeachment hearings for threatening to withhold aid from Ukraine, members of the Republican party acquitted their leader in a party-line vote.
At the time, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio called Ukraine, “one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet.”
Since Democratic President Joe Biden has taken office, the Republican Party has looked to build without Trump. Despite hard party lines against Biden’s policies remaining, lawmakers in Washington D.C. have taken a more bipartisan tone when it comes to Ukraine.
“90% of the country is with Ukrainians and is opposed to Putin,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham stated. “So, when you see a member of Congress say things like this, the one thing I want you to know: they’re outliers.”
Former Republican strategist Karl Rove also wrote an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “Republicans Stand Up for Ukraine” in response to Rep. Cawthorn’s statements, citing that the lawmaker’s remarks “didn’t reflect Republican opinion.”
Madison Cawthorn is currently running for reelection in North Carolina, where he faces a host of challengers vying for his seat in the House of Representatives. Michele Woodhouse, one of his opponents, called his statements “boorish” and questioned how someone in public office could insult another country as they were being unjustly invaded.
Clarifying his statements on Twitter following the backlash, Rep. Cawthorn walked back his comments and attempted to realign with his party.
“The actions of Putin and Russia are disgusting, but leaders, including Zelenskyy, should NOT push misinformation on America,” Madison Cawthorn wrote on social media. “I am praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.”
Luke Ball, a spokesman for Rep. Cawthorn, also went on damage control. He told CNN that the North Carolina lawmaker “supports Ukraine and the Ukrainian President’s efforts to defend their country against Russian aggression, but does not want America drawn into another conflict through emotional manipulation.”
On Thursday, North Carolina’s state lawmakers unanimously voted 112-0 to pass a resolution in support of Ukraine.