Madison Cawthorn's RNC speech called out for American history inaccuracy

The congressional candidate spoke on the third night of the convention.

August 27, 2020, 3:45 PM

Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old in a potentially historic bid for Congress, spoke during the third night of the Republican National Convention in a speech that has drawn attention for an American history inaccuracy.

The real estate investor won a Republican primary runoff for a western North Carolina congressional seat in June, upsetting President Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate. If elected, he would be the youngest member of Congress.

"If you don’t think young people can change the world, then you just don’t know American history," Cawthorn said Wednesday night, going on to note accomplishments of presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and his "personal favorite," James Madison, while in their early 20s.

In his speech, Cawthorn said that at 25, Madison signed the Declaration of Independence. Except, he did not. The statement prompted the Lincoln Project to quickly set the record straight, tweeting, "James Madison never signed the Declaration of Independence."

A press release with his remarks sent by his campaign after his speech took the line out, replacing it with, "Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence."

Cawthorn addressed the flub on Twitter after the speech, saying, "About the Madison mistake: I ad libbed that line and meant to say James Madison was 25 when the Declaration was signed. Arguably my favorite founder."

Cawthorn quickly gained attention in the GOP for his surprise win in June, which Trump had called "beautiful" and "impressive" while noting that the young candidate’s campaign was able to overcome many obstacles.

In 2014, Cawthorn survived a near-fatal car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

"This is a time of great adversity for our country. And I know something about adversity," Cawthorn said Wednesday night during his speech, addressing his accident. "I was given a 1% chance of surviving. Thanks to the power of prayer, a loving community, and skilled doctors, I made it."

PHOTO: Madison Cawthorn, Republican nominee for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, speaks during the third night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Aug. 26, 2020.
Madison Cawthorn, Republican nominee for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, speaks during the third night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Aug. 26, 2020.
Republican National Convention

Cawthorn said he decided to make a difference and run for office to "fight for the future." He urged liberals to "have a conversation," and for conservatives to "define what we support and win the argument in areas like health care and the environment."

"In this new town square, you don’t have to apologize for your beliefs or cower to a mob," he said, alluding to the "cancel culture" that several other RNC speakers have railed against. "You can kneel before God but stand for our flag."

"I say to Americans who love our country -- young and old -- be a radical for freedom. Be a radical for liberty. Be a radical for our republic. For which I stand," said Cawthorn, at which point he dramatically got up from his wheelchair with assistance and stood for the remainder of his speech.

In November, Cawthorn will face Air Force veteran Morris "Moe" Davis, the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the race for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district.

Earlier this month, he faced criticism after a photo of him visiting Eagle's Nest, Adolf Hitler's vacation house in Germany, was unsurfaced on social media. He responded on Twitter, saying it was "another fake news controversy."

ABC News' Meg Cunningham contributed to this report.

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