GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn enjoys making US history references but keeps getting the facts wrong

Madison cawthorn
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., on May 14, 2021. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn misquoted one of the Founding Fathers during a Thursday speech.
  • “It was Thomas Jefferson that said: ‘Facts are stubborn things,” Cawthorn said. Those are actually John Adams’ words.
  • This wasn’t Cawthorn’s first time misremembering US history.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn tried to emphasize the importance of facts on the House floor – only to get his own facts wrong.

During a speech attacking President Joe Biden’s economic policies on Thursday evening, the North Carolina Republican ended up misquoting one of the Founding Fathers.

“It was Thomas Jefferson that said: ‘Facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,'” Cawthorn said. “Let’s cast our eyes over the facts, shall we.”

Many Twitter users were quick to call out the flub, pointing out that former President John Adams had actually made the statement. Adams uttered the infamous phrase during his defense of British soldiers in the Boston Massacre of 1770 that preceded the Revolutionary War.

-Bryan Schott (@SchottHappens) June 25, 2021

-James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) June 24, 2021

This isn’t the first time Cawthorn, a self-described patriot, has spoken inaccurately. The vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump rose to GOP prominence last August after he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention. But during those remarks, he mistakenly said that James Madison, at 25 years old, signed the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Father was indeed 25 years old in 1776, but he did not sign the document and is actually known for his contributions to the Constitution.

Cawthorn attempted to correct the record, tweeting later: “About the Madison mistake: I ad libbed that line and meant to say James Madison was 25 when the Declaration was signed. Arguably my favorite founder.”

In the lead-up to the error, Cawthorn, who is 25 years old, said those who underestimate young people “don’t know American history.”

“If you don’t think young people can change the world, then you just don’t know American history,” Cawthorn said, pointing out the achievements of presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Madison, while they were in their early 20s.

A few months later while attending orientation for House freshmen, Cawthorn made another blunder, erroneously telling the outlet Jewish Insider that Congress had voted to decide the Emancipation Proclamation.

“I’m a lover of history, so it’s incredible to be in a place where we had the vote to decide to have the Emancipation Proclamation,” he said. Lincoln issued the presidential proclamation in 1863 – there was no such vote in Congress.

Beyond factual mistakes, Cawthorn has also amplified conspiracy theories and spread disinformation since being elected to Congress, joining a faction of far-right pro-Trump lawmakers, including fellow GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

He previously elevated a conspiracy theory that the January 6 Capitol riot was strategically planned by Democrats and leftist groups, though the claim has no factual backing, according to the FBI.

On the day of the insurrection, he called into a conservative radio show, saying: “You can call them ‘antifa,’ you can call them people paid by the Democratic machine, but … to make this look like it was a violent outrage when really the battle is being fought by people like myself and other great patriots who were standing up against the establishment,” per reporting from The Washington Post.