Freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., tweeted a picture of neo-Nazis last week, only to delete it days later following criticism on Twitter.
The controversy, first reported by The Asheville Citizen-Times, centers on a tweet Cawthorn posted on July 9 in an attack on Black Lives Matter members who claimed that flying the American flag is an expression of racism.
"The American flag symbolizes unity, patriotism, independence, pride, and love for our country. BLM continues to expose their radical hatred of this country," Cawthorn wrote in response. Contained within his tweet, however, was a link to a New York Post article whose thumbnail featured neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Movement – a far-right white supremacist organization – marching on the ground of the Capitol building in 2008.
According to the Citizen-Times, one of the pictured men donned a shirt emblazoned with the word "skinhead." The man was shown holding the hand of a boy wearing a shirt with a swastika, an ancient Indian rune appropriated by the Nazi Party during the Third Reich.
Following a firestorm of criticism on Twitter, Cawthorn spokesman Micah Bock told the Citizen-Times that the tweet had been removed, though Bock did not address why the picture had been included in the first place.
"Rep. Cawthorn has denounced fascism in all its forms," Bock said in a statement. "The American flag has stood for freedom since the founding of our nation, and the BLM movement would do well to remember that during World War II, the flag waved proudly as American soldiers destroyed Nazism in Europe."
"To equate the American flag to a symbol for fascism is historically suspect, and factually inaccurate," Bock continued.
Cawthorn, 25, was elected as the youngest member of Congress last year. Despite his political nascence, the right-wing freshman has already distinguished himself as a rising star in the Republican Party, particularly for his ability to make headlines.
Back in August of last year, Cawthorn sparked outrage when old Instagram posts from 2017 surfaced of the congressman posing for a photo in the Eagle's Nest, Adolf Hitler's vacation residence in Germany. At the time, Cawthorn said the site was on "bucket list for awhile" and "did not disappoint." Cawthorn later denied ever visiting despite evidence pointing otherwise. In the past, Cawthorn has also posed with a Betsy Ross flag (a banner associated with white nationalism) and a Spartan-style helmet (a symbol used by members of the far-right Oath Keepers), as the Observer noted.
The Charlotte Observer noted that the name Cawthorn's real estate business, SPQR Holdings, harkens back to "an abbreviation of a Latin phrase meaning the Senate and the Roman People, a phrase from the Roman Republic, is often used by white nationalists."
Cawthorn has also been accused of sexual misconduct dating back to his college years, in addition to lying about how he became paralyzed.