GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn blasts Ukraine for "pushing woke ideologies," calls Zelenskyy a "thug"

"Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug," Cawthorn said, claiming that he is trying to lead the U.S. into war

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published March 10, 2022 4:08PM (EST)

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Madison Cawthorn (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Madison Cawthorn (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a "thug" last Saturday, arguing that the Ukrainian government, now under siege by the Russian military, is "incredibly corrupt" and "incredibly evil."

"Remember that Zelenskky is a thug," Cawthorn said during a town hall in his home state last week. "Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies."

The comment, reported by longtime Republican operative Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, is even harsher than the rhetoric of most of his right-wing colleagues, who, over the past several weeks, have slowly praised Zelenskyy as they hesitantly condemn Putin. 

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pushing back against Donald Trump's supportive comments, said that he doesn't "think anything's savvy or genius about Putin.""I think Putin is evil," the lawmaker said during a press conference. "He's a dictator. And I think he's murdering people right now."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has likewise called Putin a "ruthless thug."

Even Trump, who has long praised Putin and initially called his incursion "genius," has finally called Russia's invasion of Ukraine "appalling." 

RELATED: Trump's former military advisers scold him for praising Putin's invasion as "genius"

It remains unclear what Cawthorn's line of reasoning was last Saturday. But a spokesperson for the lawmaker told Insider Cawthorn "supports Ukraine and the Ukrainian President's efforts to defend their country against Russian aggression, but does not want America drawn into another conflict through emotional manipulation."

"The Congressman was expressing his displeasure at how foreign leaders, including Zelensky, had recently used false propaganda to entice America into becoming involved in an overseas conflict," the spokesperson added.

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On Thursday, Cawthorn appeared to follow-up his remarks by claiming that while "Putin's actions of Putin and Russia are disgusting," Zelenskyy is also attempting to entice the U.S. into waging a military intervention with a concerted propaganda campaign.

"Leaders, including Zelenskyy, should NOT push misinformation on America," he tweeted. "Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.

RELATED: There is no "Putin wing" of the GOP: Why almost no Republican backs Ukraine over Russia

According to The New York Times, Ukrainian officials have spread dubious videos and made unverified claims about the war. But by and large, the outlet reported, that propaganda "is largely focused on its heroes and martyrs, characters who help dramatize tales of Ukrainian fortitude and Russian aggression." 

"If Ukraine had no messages of the righteousness of its cause, the popularity of its cause, the valor of its heroes, the suffering of its populace, then it would lose," said Peter W. Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America, told the Times. "Not just the information war, but it would lose the overall war.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Rep. Madison Cawthorn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy