Rep. Madison Cawthorn labeled Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and his government “incredibly evil” amid Russia’s blood-soaked invasion of Ukraine.
The Republican from North Carolina was caught on tape at a campaign rally over the weekend attacking the Ukrainian president – who, according to his aide, has survived more than a dozen assassination attempts in the first two weeks of the war.
“Remember that Zelensky is a thug,” Cawthorn said, according to a video obtained by North Carolina’s WRAL. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt, and it is incredibly evil, and it has been pushing ‘woke’ ideologies.”
Cawthorn’s comments stand in stark contrast to the bipartisan support that’s grown around Zelensky and the Ukrainian military since the start of Russia’s brutal invasion last month.
But they echo the Republican line from 2019, when then-President Donald Trump was impeached for allegedly threatening to withhold military aid from Zelensky’s government unless the Ukrainian government investigated then-candidate Joe Biden.
During the 2019 impeachment proceedings – which culminated with Trump being acquitted by a party-line vote – GOP Rep. Jim Jordan said Ukraine was regarded by accounting firm Ernst & Young as “one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet.”
Cawthorn is currently running for reelection in North Carolina’s 11th district, where he is facing seven Republican primary challengers.
Cawthorn took to Twitter on Thursday after taking heat for bashing Zelensky.
He called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion “disgusting,” and said he was “praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
He did not walk back his attack on the Ukrainian leader, however.
“Leaders, including Zelensky, should NOT push misinformation on America,” he said.
Cawthorn linked to a substack article that characterizes the Ghost of Kyiv and the survival of Ukrainian troops on Snake Island as instances of Ukrainian disinformation.
“Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation,” Cawthorn wrote.