Madison Cawthorn: How the RNC 2020 speaker was paralyzed and a look at his past sexual misconduct allegations
If elected in North Carolina's largely Republican 11th district, Cawthorn will be the youngest-ever member of Congress
North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn gave an empowering and encouraging speech as he took the stage on August 26 at the Republican National Convention 2020. Cawthorn recounted his dreadful story where he lost his legs in a car accident. "I know something about adversity," he said, describing how he was given a "one percent chance of survival (but) thanks to the power of prayer, a very loving community and many skilled doctors, I made it." The candidate recalled feeling like "invisible" when he went to attend a Baseball game for the first time on a wheelchair, but added, "my accident has given me new eyes to see and new ears to hear".
Speaking at the convention on August 26, the political newcomer from Western North Carolina had a message for people: "I say to people who feel forgotten, ignored and invisible: I see you, I hear you. In 2020 our country has a choice: we can give up on the American idea or we can choose to work together to make our imperfect union more perfect." He also underscored the great accomplishments of remarkable figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and James Madison in their twenties. He said, "In times of peril young people have stepped up and saved this country abroad and at home. We held the line, scaled the cliffs, crossed oceans, liberated camps and cracked codes." He tweeted his speech. "Be a Radical for Freedom. Be a Radical for Liberty. Be a Radical for our Republic. I will STAND. Will you?"
As he ended his speech, Cawthorn rose from his wheelchair, using a walker for support and said, "Be a radical for freedom, be a radical for liberty and be a radical for our republic, for which I stand, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all." New Observer reported that if elected in North Carolina’s largely Republican 11th district, Cawthorn will be the youngest-ever member of Congress. This is something he noted in his remarks, saying, "if you don’t think young people can change the world than you just don’t know American history." However, the report adds that his candidacy in North Carolina's office, previously held by current House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, must first overcome several scandals that have surfaced in the past. Here's a look at them and the deadly accident he met.
How was he paralyzed?
At the age of 18, Cawthorn had a dreadful accident in 2014 while he was returning from a spring break trip in Florida. Website Leagle states that on April 3, 2014, Cawthorn and his friend Bradley Ledford were returning home to North Carolina from Florida. His friend was driving on Interstate 4 near Daytona Beach, in a 2007 BMW X3 owned by his father's (Ledford Sr) business, Bob Ledford's RV & Marine. During the route, Ledford fell asleep and crashed the car into a concrete barrier. Though he was not injured, Cawthorn, who was asleep in the passenger seat with his feet on the dashboard, was not so fortunate. Leagle states that Emergency staff airlifted Cawthorn from the scene of the accident to Halifax Hospital trauma center in Daytona Beach where it was found that Cawthorn suffered serious injuries resulting in paralysis from the waist down.
At the age of 24, when Cawthorn defeated Donald Trump’s pick for Western North Carloninas’ congressional seat, he gave an interview to the Washington Examiner where he shrugged off suggestions from opponents that he's too young to handle working in the halls of Washington. He reportedly added how the car accident empowered him to make a career in politics. "The people of western North Carolina are the only people I care about. I really think that my accident has given me the resolve to represent them." As reported by NPR, Cawthorn also told the Washington Examiner that his accident gave him insight into the health care system, which he has placed as a top priority.
Past sexual misconduct allegations
In August 2020, when Cawthorn was campaigning actively for Congress, several reports suggested sexual misconduct allegations against the young politician at this time. Citizen-Times reported in August this year that the allegations against him came into light following social media posts from a woman who shared her account with Cawthorn six years ago.
Writing in an Instagram post dated August 13, Katrina Krulikas reportedly said that she was a UNC grad and a teenager when she met Cawthorn, who was 19 at the time when they began dating. Citizen-Times reports on their date that the two drove together to a “secluded field” for a bonfire one day. Krulikas claims that Cawthorn began asking about her sexual history. "I immediately felt discomforted," she said. Her Instagram post states that Cawthorn, seated in a wheelchair following the accident, then invited Krulikas to sit on his lap.
"I felt pressured and unsure of how to say no. So I sat on his lap," she said. Citizen-Times reported that when Cawthorn allegedly tried to kiss her twice, Krulikas used force to stop him as she also mentioned in her post: "I recall being so startled, that as he tried to grab me and I attempted to pull away, my hair was pulled instead and I got stuck in his chair. I had to yank out some of my own hair just to free myself. I never went out with Madison Cawthorn again."
World WNG on August 16 reported that two women alleged that Cawthorn forcibly kissed them. The report mentions that one woman alleged that Cawthorn grabbed her thigh and moved his hand an inch or two beneath her dress. WORLD WNG states that it has corroborated each woman’s account with at least one other individual. The report mentions that Cawthorn showed "sexually or verbally aggressive behavior" toward some women when they were teenagers.