Madison Cawthorn’s campaign recently posted to its Facebook page that he’d been endorsed by a “significant number” of alumni and students of Patrick Henry College, a conservative Christian school in Virginia with deep ties in the home schooling community. The campaign also name-dropped Michael Farris, the founder of PHC and the Home School Legal Defense Association. When pressed by alumni, the campaign released the names of six signatories, two of whom are working on his campaign.
Contrast this with the 150 students, former students and alumni of PHC who have signed an open letter denouncing Madison Cawthorn for his “gross misconduct towards our female peers, public misrepresentation of his past, disorderly conduct that was against the school’s student honor code, and self-admitted academic failings,” including that he “established a reputation of predatory behavior.” Further, an alumnus and personal friend of Farris’ confirmed via text that Farris did not and does not endorse Cawthorn. Finally, members of the alumni association confirmed that the association did not and does not endorse him.
PHC is not a liberal school. It has a strictly Christian statement of faith and honor code, draws the vast majority of its students from the home school community, has several alumni working in the White House and for the president’s reelection campaign, and Mark Meadows’s son graduated from it in 2014. But it is a small community — enrollment is between 275 and 325 any given year. One hundred fifty signatories are nearly 10% of everyone who has attended over the last 20 years, and I know about a quarter of them personally. Further, it is a community that believes character matters in leadership, and they have roundly denounced Cawthorn’s.
Cawthorn’s campaign has since edited the post, but we have saved the edit history and screenshots of alumni comments deleted by the page. It seems that his “endorsement” by Patrick Henry College students is about as real as his plans to attend a Naval Academy that rejected him before his accident, as he states himself in a 2017 deposition. As a Patrick Henry College alumnus and Army veteran, I can tell you that this is not the character of a leader or of a representative. Consider your vote wisely, and feel free to contact myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Giovanna Lastra (email@example.com) for further information.
— Colin Cutler
Patrick Henry College, Literature, 2011
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Cawthorn’s campaign for a response to the points in the letter but did not receive one by press time. An article by AVL Watchdog about the controversy, “Attack by Madison Cawthorn’s Schoolmates Goes Viral” (avl.mx/8n3) contains a response from Cawthorn’s campaign spokesman, John Hart, who described the allegations as “unsubstantiated and anonymous accusations.”