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Opinion | Why Nobody Believed Madison Cawthorn — and Nobody Would Have Cared if It Was True

Written By Jack Shafer

~ March 2021 ~

Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

Regardless of the freshman congressman’s unreliability as a narrator, sex scandals don’t do much for Washington anymore.

Madison Cawthorn — the 26-year-old peacocking, loopy-right, Republican member of Congress from North Carolina — has bestowed upon the Washington press corps a story so fulsome that it has provided many of them a needed break from covering the war in Ukraine, avalanching inflation, the next wrinkle in Covid, Joe Biden’s latest gaffe and the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson.

In a podcast released last week, Cawthorn claimed that the smutty Netflix series House of Cards, which featured murder, drugs, polyamory, erotic asphyxiation, more murder, a threesome, dog murder and kinky sex, was “closer to a documentary” than a fictional show.

Ears wiggled in Washington newsrooms as first-termer Cawthorn elaborated on his assertion, claiming to have collected an invitation to an orgy and insisting that he had witnessed anti-drug members of Congress doing cocaine.

But few reporters put much faith in Cawthorn’s sordid testimonial — not because nobody in D.C. gets murdered or joins threesomes or kills dogs or does drugs.

Like other Americans, Washingtonians attend to life’s basic vices with real enthusiasm. We’re even also known to drink and swear. But few reporters were willing to bite on Cawthorn’s allegation account because 1) it came with no specifics; 2) he didn’t share the orgy location (could the password be Fidelio?); 3) his comments were made offhandedly to a minor podcast instead of in a press conference or a serious statement of allegations; and 4) mostly because he’s Madison Cawthorn, an exhibitionist capable of blotting out the entire Kardashian family even when he doesn’t turn up the wattage.

Perhaps the big surprise is that Cawthorn didn’t accuse anybody of pedophilia, an article of faith among his QAnon acquaintances and universally disdained. But give him time.

A version of this article originally appeared here on

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