Republican members have pushed back against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil” amid the Russian invasion.
Cawthorn reportedly made the comments while speaking to supporters last weekend, according to a video posted by WRAL.
“Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug,” Cawthorn can be heard telling his supporters in the video. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”
Cawthorn is currently running for reelection in North Carolina’s westernmost district.
Several Republicans have pushed back on the candidate’s comment on Ukraine, including two competing candidates in North Carolina’s 11th District, Republican Michele Woodhouse and Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-N.C.).
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“I do not understand how anyone in American public office could call Zelensky a ‘thug’ while Ukraine is under such vicious assault,” Woodhouse said.
“Let’s be clear. The thug is Vladimir Putin,” Edwards wrote in a tweet without naming Cawthorn. “We must unite as a nation to pray for President Zelensky 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.”
“To my colleague in the House, I would push back and say it’s not Ukraine that is invading Russia,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said. “It is Russia invading Ukraine.”
“Like 90% of the country is with Ukrainians and is opposed to Putin,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “So when you see a member of Congress say things like this, the one thing I want you to know: they’re outliers.”
Cawthorn walked back on his statement in a tweet on Thursday, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions “disgusting.” He continued, however, to call out Zelensky and accused him of pushing “misinformation on America.”
“I am praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he continued. “Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.”
About 61% of Republicans have reportedly expressed a favorable opinion of Zelensky amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while 6% were in opposition, according to WRAL. Around 31% of members of the party remain undecided.
Cawthorn, currently the youngest member of congress at the age of 26, drew controversy in February 2021 after an in-depth BuzzFeed News article revealed the Republican senator’s alleged “predatory behavior” and sexual harassment of women during his days at Patrick Henry College. A former classmate accused Cawthorn of making “vulgar jokes” about women and their races while they were in a car together. Speaking to supporters in October 2021, Cawthorn vowed to prosecute Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for allegedly lying to Congress about Covid-19 and to seize “every Chinese asset in the United States” once the GOP returns to power. As of this writing, Ukraine is planning to open evacuation routes on Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia, Volnovakha-Pokrovsk, Polohy-Zaporizhzhia, Enerhodar-Zaporizhzhia and Izium-Lozova Friday, authorities say. About 100,000 Ukrainians have been evacuated since Thursday, said Zelensky.