We, as alumni and former students of Patrick Henry College (PHC), oppose Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy for the United States Congress.
PHC is a small, Christian college where we were educated in intellectual conservatism and the core tenets of good governance, rooted in a deep appreciation for our country’s founding principles. Through intensive study of the classics and the writings of our Founding Fathers we learned that those seeking to represent us in public service should be men and women of good moral character. It was the “Father of Our Country,” President George Washington, who said so when he wrote to his nephew in 1790 that “a good moral character is the first essential in a man... It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.” PHC regularly touts the placement of its graduates in positions of influence in law and conservative politics, and we take pride in that PHC cultivates citizens of upstanding moral character who will “lead the nation and shape the culture.” However, based on our knowledge of Cawthorn’s character and our experience with him as a classmate at PHC, we have determined that we must speak out and resolutely oppose his bid to represent the people of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.
Cawthorn’s time at PHC was marked by gross misconduct towards our female peers, public misrepresentation of his past, disorderly conduct that was against the school’s student honor code, and self-admitted academic failings.
During his brief time at the college, Cawthorn established a reputation for predatory behavior. His modus operandi was to invite unsuspecting women on “joy rides” in his white Dodge Challenger. Cawthorn would take young women to secluded areas, lock the doors, and proceed to make unwanted sexual advances. It became a regular warning in the female dorms not to be caught alone with Madison Cawthorn. Additionally, he referred to female students as “bitches” and “sluts”, both in private amongst his friends and often publicly. He also called our female peers these derogatory names when they refused to go for a ride in his car.
At the beginning of the 2017 spring semester, Cawthorn shared his personal testimony at one of our campus-wide chapel services. Over the course of his testimony, Cawthorn said that he was “a top football recruit for the Naval Academy” and that after his accident he told doctors that he “would be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.” Cawthorn has placed this narrative at the center of his campaign, namely that his tragic accident “derailed his plans” to attend the Naval Academy. However, a sworn deposition from his lawsuit against his friend’s auto insurance company shows that Cawthorn knew before the accident that his nomination to the Naval Academy had been rejected.
Cawthorn recounted how “my best friend, my brother” managed to extricate himself from the wreckage of the accident and deserted Cawthorn to perish alone in “a fiery tomb.” Yet according to local journalists and reporting, Cawthorn’s friend, with the assistance of a bystander, pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage, saving his life. In describing the friend’s actions, Cawthorn’s father said “he wasn’t scared, didn’t run from the fire, he pulled Cawthorn from the car cause he was unconscious.” To build a compelling narrative, Cawthorn is willing to skew the truth and slander the character of a friend who saved his life.
Later that same semester, Cawthorn was involved in a well-documented case of vandalism. He, along with another former student, stole a commemorative sword with a deep sentimental value from one of the male dormitories. The sword was later found dumped in the college pond, covered in cement. This destructive action aptly displays Cawthorn’s pattern of disrespect for his community and blatant disregard for its values. How can someone who flagrantly disrespects the deeply held traditions of the communities they participated in, be trusted to respect our country’s most sacred institutions?
Following his departure from PHC, more information came to light about Cawthorn having groped and sexually harassed female students who believed him to be a friend. One of these cases was recently confirmed by WORLD Magazine, a conservative evangelical publication based in Asheville, NC. This student described how Cawthorn grabbed her thigh underneath her skirt and complimented parts of her body in an inappropriate way that made her feel extremely uncomfortable. The article also recounts Cawthorn taking other women to secluded areas to forcefully engage in unwanted sexual advances, which matches the experiences of women at PHC. These reprehensible actions have had lasting impacts on the women he targeted. And still many women are not ready to share their stories of what he did to them.
But we remember what Madison Cawthorn did to our community. We remember how he took advantage of our community’s trust. We remember how deeply he hurt our community. We remember that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing who made our small, close-knit community his personal playground of debauchery. We remember that other survivors have yet to share their stories. And it is because we remember that we will not sit idly by while he is celebrated as the new face of the conservative movement, millennials, and Christians.
Therefore, we urge the voters of North Carolina to seriously reevaluate Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy in light of who he really is. Our Founding Fathers made it clear that good moral character is the first requirement for anyone seeking to represent the American people, and Cawthorn falls short of that standard. North Carolina deserves better; North Carolina demands better. So on November 3rd, reject Madison Cawthorn at the ballot box.