If you ever suspected that Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) attention is not always 100% focussed on his political duties, confirmation came Wednesday when he took part in a virtual hearing over Zoom conducted by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
While one witness gave testimony to the committee, Cawthorn, 26, pulled out his gun and began to clean it.
Cawthorn’s actions could not be seen by members of the public watching the meeting. Only the person talking was shown on screen at any one time. However, at least two of the other people taking part in the session could see what Cawthorn was doing.
One of them, a 9/11 first responder called John Feal, told the Daily Beast, “It was immature. He’s a child. He lacks common sense. I think the congressman was overcompensating for something that he lacks and feeling inadequate among the heroes on that call.”
Lindsay Church, a queer, non-binary veteran, took screenshots of Cawthorn cleaning his gun and posted them to Twitter.
Imagine you showed up for a Zoom meeting and a colleague decided that was when he needed to clean his gun. Because that’s what happened today in a Congressional roundtable on toxic exposure. We’re better than this. pic.twitter.com/ePJGKdspfY
— Lindsay Church (@lkmchurch) January 20, 2022
Cawthorn apparently worked out of sight on his gun for several minutes, but it became clear what he was doing when Jen Burch, a veteran who spent six years in the Air Force serving in Japan and Afghanistan, gave testimony.
The live meeting, which ran for over two hours, heard reports about how burn pits, which are used to dispose of trash in combat zones, can cause damage to the health of military personnel tasked with standing near them.
Another of those involved with the meeting, Rosie Lopez Torres, the cofounder of Burn Pits 360, told Daily Beast she was not aware of what Cawthorn was doing. However, when presented with images, she was unimpressed.
“That is insane. Total disregard and disrespect to America’s war fighters. He was so bored with the topic. Those that are sick and dying and the widows in his district should see how much he cares about the issue.”
Asked by the Daily Beast why Cawthorn thought this was an appropriate time to clean his gun, his spokesperson, Luke Ball, said: “What could possibly be more patriotic than guns and veterans?”
Cawthorn was elected to Congress in November 2020. He has quickly established himself as one of the Republican party’s most rightwing voices, alongside colleagues such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.
The youngest person elected to Congress last year, he has made headlines with his views and controversial speeches, such as telling moms to raise hyper-masculine “monsters”.
When campaigning to be elected, Cawthorn said the car accident that left him in a wheelchair derailed his place to go to naval college. It actually emerged he’d been rejected by naval college before the accident took place.
In December, he gave a speech at the Turning Point USA conference urging young conservatives to drop out of college and wed young. Just a week later, he announced that he and his wife Cristina were separating after just eight months of marriage.
In February 2021, Cawthorn was stopped trying to board a plane in North Carolina with his 9mm Glock pistol in his bag. He was not arrested and later dismissed his carrying the gun as a simple mistake.
Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a Democrat, Christian Minister, and “proud gay woman.” She is standing against Cawthorn in his North Carolina District later this year. On hearing of his behavior on Wednesday, she tweeted, “If elected, I will not fidget with a gun during a hearing.”
Online, many others shared disgust at Cawthorn deciding to clean his weapon during the virtual meeting.
I grew up in gun culture, and the thought of cleaning a weapon in front of anyone, let alone strangers, is unthinkable. It’s enormously disrespectful. Madison Cawthorn is a grown man who has spent a lifetime under the impression that his efforts are inherently extraordinary. Sad.
— Charlotte Clymer ?️? (@cmclymer) January 20, 2022
This is the kind of thing that abusive men do. It’s a form of intimidation. I used to work as a domestic violence counselor and when somebody pulls out their gun and cleans it in front of you as an act of intimidation. Period
— Jersey Girl On Maui (@claudia_micco) January 20, 2022
As one of his constituents, I can confidently say that this young man never fully dealt with the trauma of his accident.
He is in serious need of psychological counseling yet those around him continue to ignore it and encourage his misguided rage.
His wife saw it. She’s out.
— Science Matters (@trustscience92) January 20, 2022
You don’t have to be a student of Freud to understand this one
— Eryq Ouithaqueue (@EryqOuithaqueue) January 20, 2022
I watched.We didn’t see that.I did hear Madison ask stupid questions showing his ineptitude on this subject. He asked if military commanders knew burn pits were there when sending troops to the area. No Maddy. 10acre fires spewing thick black smoke on every base went unnoticed ??♀️
— Burn Pits Kill War Fighters (@SusanZeier) January 20, 2022
No sh*t. Someone on my team last year did this on a zoom call with my team after they were caught trying to pass off subpar information because they couldn’t handle constructive criticism. They are clearly no longer a part of my team. ?
— Samantha Kutner (@ashkenaz89) January 20, 2022