Last month, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar addressed a conference organized by a well-known White nationalist.
Republican leaders — led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made clear this move was “appalling” and “unacceptable,” but largely avoided a whole lot of public spectacle about the matter.
Fast forward to this week, when GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn said on a podcast that he had been invited to orgies and seen people do cocaine in front of him during his time in Washington.
Suddenly, McCarthy — and lots of other Republicans — were falling all over themselves to call him out, and insist that this conduct was unbecoming a member of Congress.
“I’m very disappointed. I told him he’s lost my trust,” McCarthy said after meeting Wednesday with Cawthorn. “He’s lost my trust. He’s going to have to earn it back.” (The North Carolina Republican, for his part, released a video on Thursday saying that “the entire left-wing establishment has targeted Madison Cawthorn as public enemy number one.”)
McCarthy went on to suggest that Cawthorn had either exaggerated or entirely made up the allegations. “He did not tell the truth. That’s unacceptable,” the California Republican said.
And it’s not just McCarthy who is fed up with Cawthorn. As WEBICNEWS reported, several congressional Republicans have publicly criticized Cawthorn this week, with North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis going as far as to back one of his primary opponents.
So, why the harsher response for Cawthorn?
Simple: The actions of Greene and Gosar reflect poorly on them and only them (in some Republicans’ minds). What Cawthorn is alleging looks bad for every single Republican member of Congress.
See, while Cawthorn didn’t say that it was members of Congress who invited him to orgies or who did cocaine in front of him, he didn’t not say it either. Which, in their minds, means they are at risk of being implicated.
“I asked a bunch of Republicans why *this* was the thing that broke the camel’s back with Cawthorn,” tweeted WEBICNEWS congressional correspondent Melanie Zanona. “Their response: the orgy & cocaine allegations implicated fellow Republicans. And some members were getting questions from concerned constituents — and spouses — about the claims.”
In short: It’s fine if Cawthorn wants to embarrass himself. It’s a whole different thing if his claims drag down other members of Congress. (And as I’ve previously outlined, Cawthorn has been no stranger to controversy since coming to Congress.)
The surge in criticism of Cawthorn following his latest claims is a reminder that the House is governed, primarily, by parochial concerns. McCarthy’s job is to keep his members happy, so that if Republicans take the House majority this fall, he gets their vote to be speaker.
The reason McCarthy then hasn’t been more aggressive in punishing the likes of Greene and Gosar is because, well, his members just don’t care that much about them and their antics. Whatever Greene or Gosar is saying or doing at the moment doesn’t occasion much chatter in their districts.
But when Cawthorn starts throwing around allegations of cocaine use and orgies, well, the constituents in a lot of Republican districts start asking questions. And McCarthy acts.