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Former Henderson County Sheriff Drops Support For Madison Cawthorn

Newly-elected Congressman Madison Cawthorn spoke in Sylva on the campaign trail.
Cory Vaillancourt
Newly-elected Congressman Madison Cawthorn spoke in Sylva on the campaign trail.

A key backer of Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn is now dropping his support following last week’s insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Cawthorn, 25, was elected last year to North Carolina's 11th District, which includes Asheville and other mountain communities.

Former Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin Jr. was going to be the district director for Cawthorn. But after seeing his role in the insurrection last week at the Capitol, Erwin says Cawthorn no longer has his support.

“Once a word leaves your mouth you can’t take it back in. And you can either incite or you can calm with the words you use. And I have seen no calming words,” said Erwin.

Cawthorn spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally before insurrectionists stormed the halls of the Capitol building.

Here’s the full audio of his speech:

Former Henderson County Sheriff Drops Support For Madison Cawthorn
U.S. Rep. Madson Cawthorn speaks at President Trump's rally Jan. 6 before some in the crowd storm the Capitol. Audio via CSPAN.

Afterward, Cawthorn said that he did not support the violence.

Cawthorn has been no stranger to scandal throughout his campaign. He was accused of lying on multiple occasions, sexual misconduct and using white supremacist language among other issues.

Erwin says that looking back, he was wrong to support Cawthorn and tell fellow law enforcement officers to do the same.

“I started to think, 'OK, where there is some smoke, there has got to be some fire here,'” said Erwin.

He says he sees the people who brought weapons and bombs to the Capitol as domestic terrorists but that not everyone at the event falls into that category.
“There were a lot of good, great people that were up there for the right reasons, but you can get a few people in a massive crowd like that and your words can incite them. And then you have what we call a mob mentality and other people can get caught up in it,” said Erwin.

Erwin, who was the Henderson County sheriff for 12 years, says he believes in accountability. 

“You can’t talk about (how) you support blue lives matter and 'support the blue' when you are firing up people who are harming law enforcement officers,” said Erwin.

A Capitol Police officer was killed during the insurrection.

Erwin says that overall, he thinks Cawthorn is mismanaging his office. For now, Erwin says he remains registered as a Republican. But that affiliation is something he will be looking at day by day.

Copyright 2021 BPR News. To see more, visit BPR News.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.