Jewish community calls for Rep. Cawthorn's resignation
The following op-ed was published in the Asheville Citizen Times on Sunday, January 17, 2021, authored by Deborah Miles of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Western NC, and David Hurand of Carolina Jews for Justice.
The Western North Carolina Jewish community had been looking forward to having a constructive dialogue with Madison Cawthorn, our newly elected congressional representative. We had asked for a meeting date and were awaiting a response. Now, however, after witnessing his role in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, we have decided that our differences are beyond the pale of conversation. We are instead calling for his immediate resignation as Representative of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.
On January 6th, Cawthorn neglected his role as our representative and as a sworn defender of the U.S. Constitution by inciting a violent siege on the federal government, thereby violating his oath of office and specifically, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Cawthorn’s betrayal of our democracy began long before January 6. He has perpetuated the baseless claims of fraud in the presidential election (but not, of course, in the same election that resulted in his victory and that of others in his party). Those claims have been examined by state election officials and by numerous state and federal courts, including many Republican judges, some of whom President Trump put on the bench, and they have repeatedly been found to be without merit. Yet Mr. Cawthorn has continued to engage in incendiary rhetoric to fire up opposition to the legitimate election of President-Elect Biden. After the outcome was clearly settled, Cawthorn urged a crowd to “threaten” lawmakers who didn’t support his false claims of voter fraud.
Then, on January 6, Cawthorn spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally immediately preceding the assault on the U.S. Capitol and the lawmakers conducting the business of the nation inside. A “battle,” he said, was taking place on the House floor with “patriots,” not on the streets of Washington. Cawthorn could see before him the cheering throng openly displaying white supremacist symbols, swastikas, and confederate flags. “This crowd has some fight in it,” he shouted. Indeed it did. That crowd attacked our seat of government, murdering a police officer and causing the deaths of four other people.
Mr. Cawthorn, when you incite a mob to believe that a settled election has been stolen, that the theft is taking place by our elected representatives as they certify the results on the House floor, and that a “battle” should be taking place there to “stop the steal,” what do you expect the mob to do? Those vigilantes followed your lead.
His actions are too revolting even for staunchly conservative Republicans in WNC to stomach. Retired Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin has expressed regret for his earlier support of Cawthorn. “I could see that Madison Cawthorn is all about Madison Cawthorn being a show horse,” he says. “I wanted a work horse.” Another local conservative activist says: “Make no mistake: There is blood on his hands . . .. After his role in inciting this mob violence we saw yesterday at the Capitol, my worst fears about his immaturity and willingness to pander to the worst instincts of the right-wing fringe were realized.” State Senator Chuck Edwards has said that he is “incredibly concerned” about Cawthorn’s conduct. “As a legislator, I don't need to be threatened to do the job the voters hired me to do.”
As Jews, we are profoundly aware of what can happen when political figures use propaganda and violent rhetoric to motivate their followers. We agree with Rev. Barry Black, the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate: “These tragedies have reminded us that words matter, and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.”
Cawthorn has taken smiling selfies at Hitler’s vacation retreat; has, in words reminiscent of Nazi racial theory, talked of Jewish blood running in people’s veins; and has boasted of “converting” Jews to Christianity. But his antisemitism isn’t the only thing that concerns us. The collusion of antisemitism, white supremacy, racism, and xenophobia is what fuels the machinery of White Nationalism. By contrast, as Jews, we are taught to see the image of God in all people (B’tzelem Elohim), and we stand in solidarity with all who are threatened by the violent politics of fear and division that Madison Cawthorn has come to represent. He is not a representative of all of the people, and he must resign.