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FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., hit back hard against an effort to keep him off the ballot in North Carolina for his Jan. 6 actions, saying the legal strategy to hurt “America First patriots” will ultimately fail.
“It’s just a political tactic,” Cawthorn told Fox News Digital in his first interview on the challenge to disqualify him for the ballot. “I don’t believe it has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually accomplishing its task.”
A group of 11 North Carolina voters on Monday filed a legal challenge to the North Carolina State Board of Elections seeking to disqualify Cawthorn as a congressional candidate, alleging he does not meet the Constitutional requirements for office for his actions and statements surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
With the U.S. Capitol building in the background, supporters of President Donald Trump stand Pennsylvania Avenue during a rally at Freedom Plaza, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — enacted in the wake of the Civil War — says no person shall serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Authors of complaint, filed by the group Free Speech For People, say the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and congressional efforts to stop the certification of President Biden‘s election victory “was an insurrection against the United States.” And Cawthorn’s speech at the Jan. 6 rally supporting then-President Donald Trump, his comments on Twitter and his actions amount to “reasonable suspicion” that “Cawthorn aided the insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from federal office.”
Representative Madison Cawthorn, a Republican from North Carolina, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, U.S., on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Cawthorn told Fox News he’s aiming to get the challenge “dismissed very quickly” because he thinks other GOP members of Congress will also be targeted as part of a nationwide strategy.
“I think they’re coming for … the American First patriots who were in Congress — the President’s real fighters,” Cawthorn said. “I guess I was the loudest, so they came for me first, but we’re trying to get this shut down so that other members of Congress won’t have to do the same.”
Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Indeed, organizers of the effort say they are urging “Secretaries of State and chief election officials across the country” to follow the Fourteenth Amendment and “bar insurrectionists from any future ballot.”
The 26-year-old Cawthorn is the youngest member of Congress and currently represents North Carolina’s 11th District. He has filed to run for election in 2022 in the state’s newly redrawn 13th District.
Cawthorn spoke at the Jan. 6 “Save America Rally” that precipitated the Capitol riot, three days after he was sworn in, saying “the Democrats, with all the fraud they have done this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.”
Cawthorn later that day also voted against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory on Jan. 6.
Cawthorn told Fox News Digital that he stands by his actions on Jan. 6, noting that Democrats objected to election certifications in the past and his rally speech did not call for violence.
“I would do the exact same thing again today,” Cawthorn said.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., is seen in the Capitol Visitor Center before Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., won the election for House Republican Conference chair on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“I spoke to a crowd of patriots who I really genuinely believe in,” Cawthorn said. “I think they’re great people. January 6 was not an insurrection. I followed my constitutional responsibilities to object to an election that over … 1/3 of all the American population had questions about. I believe that was really what we were being called to do.”
He said the overwhelming majority of the people at the Capitol that day weren’t violent terrorists, but they were “literally respecting the velvet ropes in Statuary Hall.” He supports fining the protesters for trespassing and prosecuting those who committed acts of violence, but “you shouldn’t be treating these people like mass murderers.”
The legal challenge in North Carolina caught the attention of the “Rachel Maddow Show,” according to an email a MSNBC producer accidentally copied Cawthorn’s office on. The show worried that Cawthorn might ask to come on the MSNBC program if the network reached out to him for comment about the story.
Cawthorn said he was “so shocked they were so careless” about the email mishap, but said he’d love a chance to go on Maddow’s show nonetheless.
“They’re terrified of having their woke bubble burst,” Cawthorn told Fox News.
Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.