Burgess Owens, the Republican nominee in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, praised a North Carolina Republican candidate who has been criticized for what appears to be his support for white nationalism.
On Sunday, Owens retweeted a post from North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn calling him “A courageous and intelligent Patriot who is running circles around the young man I was at 25. You have a gift.. time to share him!!!... Can’t wait to team up with you my friend.”
NC 11th.. "America needs Madison". A courageous and intelligent Patriot who is running circles around the young man I was at 25. You have a gift.. time to share him!!!... Can't wait to team up with you my friend.. Burgess https://t.co/DtRKwcjDhy— Burgess Owens (@BurgessOwens) August 17, 2020
Cawthorn recently won the GOP primary for Mark Meadows’ seat in Congress, which is open after Meadows became chief of staff for President Donald Trump. Cawthorn triumphed over a Republican candidate backed by President Trump.
If Cawthorn is elected to Congress, he would be one of the youngest House members ever. He recently turned 25 and is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.
Cawthorn has recently come under scrutiny for his seeming praise of Adolf Hitler and support for white nationalist groups.
Earlier this month, the feminist website Jezebel reported on some social media posts from Cawthorn where he posted pictures on Instagram of a trip to Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat. He called the trip a “bucket list” item that he had been looking forward to for years. Cawthorn also referred to Hitler as “Fuhrer” in the posts. Shortly after the Jezebel report was published, Cawthorn took the pictures down.
Cawthorn’s post that Owens re-tweeted was a response to news reports who said the now-deleted pictures showed his support for Nazis. Cawthorn is in a wheelchair due to an auto accident.
The pictures in front of Hitler’s mountain hideout are not the only troubling intersection with white nationalism.
According to a report from the Charlotte Observer, Cawthorn’s real estate company, SPQR, is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase from the Roman Republic. SPQR is a symbol often used by white nationalists. For example, SPQR flags were flown by white nationalists at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina.
A photo on Cawthorn’s website shows him wearing tactical gear emblazoned with a Spartan-style helmet, which is a symbol used by the Oath Keeper’s group, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as an “anti-government right-wing fringe organization.”
The Observer also reports Cawthorn has been photographed with the Bety Ross flag, which has been adopted by some white nationalist groups. Last year Nike decided against releasing a limited-edition sneaker emblazoned with the Betsy Ross flag after complaints that it was a racist symbol. To be fair, if there is a connection between white nationalism and the Betsy Ross flag, experts say it is a loose one at best.
This is not the first time Owens has crossed paths with controversy online. In July Owens congratulated Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert for defeating incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton in her primary election. Boebert has publicly embraced the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
In May, Owens appeared as a guest on an obscure internet program devoted to the QAnon conspiracy. However, Owens did not discuss QAnon on the show.
A spokesperson for Owens’ campaign dismissed questions about whether he was aware of Cawthorn’s possible connections to white nationalism as “peddling conspiracy theories” and did not comment further.
Polling shows Owens either leading or tied with Democrat Ben McAdams in their 4th Congressional District race. On Friday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted the race from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up.”