GOP's Madison Cawthorn skewered in fact-check after he implies mask mandates would drive kids to suicide
Madison Cawthorn (Screen Grab)

On Wednesday, PolitiFact and WRAL demolished a claim made by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) at a Johnston County school board meeting while attacking mask mandates.

Specifically, Cawthorn made the claim that a hospital reported a 255 percent spike in suicide deaths among children due to the pandemic, and argued specifically that mask mandates could further traumatize students and exacerbate these figures.

"You can see what the World Health Organization was saying, you know, putting masks on children does have some mental problem — it increases depression," said Cawthorn. "You know, we saw death and suicide rates are up 255% in one study that a hospital did in America because they're starting to see that people are really feeling disconnected from that social interaction."

According to WRAL reporter Paul Specht, Cawthorn got several facts wrong.

"We asked his office that. We said, where are you getting these numbers?" said Specht. "And they sent us a link to an NPR story. And it's titled Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids' Suicide Risk. And it's from back in February. Cawthorn's office pulled out a line and it talked about suicide attempts among young people at one hospital in Indianapolis ... But if you look at the year-to-year numbers — all of 2019 to all of 2020 — the hospital reported a rise that was much lower. In fact, a hospital spokesman told us they saw a 51% increase over the year starting in March 2020 to March 2021."

Furthermore, noted Specht, "we could not find any evidence that those numbers at that hospital in particular were in any way related to mask policies at schools."

Cawthorn has been showing up at school board meetings all across North Carolina to proselytize against mask mandates. In one incident, he visited a Henderson County board meeting, where he attacked Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and proclaimed, "We will not accept your edicts."