Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) attempted to corner an expert witness during a hearing on violent extremism, but he quickly backed down after she easily parried his attack.
The North Carolina Republican, appearing at the virtual hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs from a mountaintop vista, angrily denied the armed services had any issues with racism, although he admitted he hadn't served himself despite misleadingly touting his nomination to the Naval Academy.
"I did not serve but know many people who do, and the same sentiment for every single race I speak to is there is no racism in our military," Cawthorn said. "If there is, it's very far and few between. For people to say white evangelical Americans who are conservatives and or in our military are racist is disgusting and wrong. Any Christian who is inside a military literally worships a Middle Easterner. To say these people are racist is absolutely, wholeheartedly false."
Cawthorn then turned his attention to sociologist Amy Cooter, of Vanderbilt University, and claimed she questioned the establishment of militias in her opening statement.
"I understand she used some special words and things to say, 'No, I'm not against all militias,' but, unfortunately, having a militia is a protected right in our Constitution under the Second Amendment, and I believe it is disgusting to say there is extremism and we need to root out extremists in our military, inside our veterans."
Cawthorn complained that extremism hadn't been properly defined and defended the militias in his own state as patriots -- and then challenged Cooter to clearly state her position on militias.
"There are incredible numbers of militias inside of my district and I'm very proud to say these are people who want to safeguard our liberty if we have a have a tyrannical government that rises up," the lawmaker said. "My friends, I am disgusted and saddened to see members of congress deriding veterans, you should all be ashamed of yourselves."
"Dr. Cooter, I would like to point a question at you," he added. "Are you anti-militia?"
The professor was ready for his attack.
"Mr. Cawthorn, believe that you actually missed all of our opening statements, and I would encourage you to review the film on that," Cooter said, stifling a laugh, "because if you had heard me you would have heard me say that I've been a gun owner since I was 21, I grew up in the foothills of Appalachia and I have very close personal contacts with militia members across the country. I'm frequently accused of being a militia apologist because I actually try to focus very frequently on how many of them are law-abiding folks. But the focus today is on that extreme element and the potential danger that extreme faction specifically can pose to our veterans and to our country."
Cawthorn seemed to be thrown for a loop by Cooter's response.
"Thank you very much for backing that up," he said, stammering, "and saying you don't think that many members of militias are extremists. I'm glad that you're a gun owner, I'm happy that you have your Second Amendment rights. I did watch your opening statements, I was just saddened to hear that that this entire committee hearing is about finding extremists inside of our veterans."
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