Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) continues to face allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from several women who say the freshman lawmaker put them in uncomfortable situations when he was a college student, CNN reports.
The former classmates told CNN that Cawthorn, a rising star in the GOP, would make unwanted advances during “fun” drives.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by Cawthorn, who at age 25 is the youngest member of Congress, have followed him since he launched his run for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. But the claims have gained renewed attention as the freshman congressman’s popularity has steadily increased in some Republican corners following his move earlier this year to Washington, where he has closely aligned himself with some of his far-right colleagues and former President Donald Trump’s lie that the November election was illegitimate.
Cawthorn has repeatedly denied wrong-doing since the allegations first surfaced, and his office pointed CNN to a September 2020 statement from the lawmaker in which he said, “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life.”
The women alleging misconduct against the congressman are former classmates of his at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. Cawthorn attended the private Christian school for a short time in 2016 before dropping out, and it was during that time that the women say he made unwanted advances on them.
Former classmate Caitlin Coulter told CNN: “His MO was to take vulnerable women out on these rides with him in the car, and to make advances.”
Coulter said she was taken on something Cawthorn called a “fun drive,” where he asked about her purity ring and her sexual experiences. She says she felt something was off and shut down the conversation.
“He got really upset. And he whipped the car around and started going back to campus at 70-80 miles an hour on these one-lane roads,” she said. “And it was — it was really scary.”
CNN said two other women who went to school with Cawthorn also mentioned the “fun” drives and that turning him down would lead to harassment.
“There was a lot of sexual innuendo,” said Leah Petree, another former student at the school. “It got really uncomfortable walking to and from class. He would yell out, ‘Are you ready to take that fun drive today?'”
“That pestering continued. That attention was not what I wanted,” she said.
In addition to the claims by the former Patrick Henry students, at least two women have also alleged that Cawthorn had forcibly kissed or touched them years ago, claims he has previously denied. He told CNN last year that he regretted actions he took and apologized to anybody he “made feel uncomfortable.”
In a recent investigation by The Washington Post, which included a more broad look at Cawthorn and his rise within the Republican Party, one woman said she would call her experience at 17 with Cawthorn a “sexual assault.”
In describing the incident, Katrina Krulikas told The Post that Cawthorn tried to kiss her, and when she said no, he did again anyway.
“He tries to kiss me and I say no and I don’t let him kiss me,” she said. “We talk for like a little bit longer, like a few minutes. And then suddenly” he moved forward “as if to try to kiss me so quickly that I wouldn’t have a choice to say no or push him away. And at this point, I’m so startled that I fall back. My hair gets stuck in his chair. I’m ripping my hair out, trying to get out of the situation.”
Returning home, Krulikas said she texted a friend that she would never feel comfortable being alone with Cawthorn again. At the time, she didn’t complain because she felt she had “put myself in that situation.” But as she grew older, she said, she believed Cawthorn deserved blame, and “I definitely would classify it as sexual assault because he knew I said no.”
Image credit: Screengrab / PBS NewsHour / YouTube