House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse eyes advantages of proxy voting beyond pandemic The post-Trump era has begun Zelensky challenges conscience of Congress MORE (R-Calif.) said Friday that one of his members, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), is “wrong” for saying that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a “thug.”

“Madison is wrong. If there’s any thug in this world, it’s Putin,” McCarthy said at a Capitol press conference when asked about Cawthorn’s comments, referring to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRepublican senators introduce bill to ban Russian uranium imports Hillicon Valley — Invasion complicates social media policy Defense & National Security — Blinken details Russia’s possible next steps MORE.

McCarthy cited the recent Russian attacks on a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians were sheltering in Ukraine as examples of brutality against the Ukrainian people by Putin.


“This is atrocious. This is wrong. This is the aggressor. This is the one that needs to end this war. This is the one that everybody should unite against,” McCarthy said.

Yet McCarthy confirmed that he still supports Cawthorn’s reelection. “Yes,” he replied.

Cawthorn called Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “evil” in a video unearthed by a North Carolina news outlet last week.

“Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug,” Cawthorn said. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”

Russian state TV has seized on Cawthorn’s comments, according to NBC News. That prompted public criticism of Cawthorn from North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators seek probe of ‘egregious’ conditions at NJ nursing home Capito to make Senate GOP leadership bid GOP raises red flag on Supreme Court nominee’s Guantánamo work  MORE.

“If your comments are being replayed over and over by Russian state propaganda outlets…#ncpol,” Tillis tweeted on Thursday.


Zelensky delivered a virtual address to members of Congress on Wednesday, where he called on lawmakers to support a no-fly zone over Ukraine and bolster his nation’s air defense systems to repel the Russian strikes. The U.S. and NATO have ruled out enforcing a no-fly zone out of concerns that it could exacerbate conflict with Russia, a nuclear power.

After Zelensky’s speech, Cawthorn warned against any excessive U.S. involvement in the conflict.

“I do not support neocons both on the left and in my party who clamor for war at every chance they get. The scenes coming from Ukraine are both jarring and heartbreaking. But lurching to war or involving American soldiers in this conflict could lead to identical jarring and heartbreaking scenes with American lives,” Cawthorn said in a statement after Zelensky addressed members of Congress.

Several far-right House Republicans have similarly resisted efforts to intervene in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Cawthorn was among 15 House Republicans who voted against banning Russian oil imports last week.

And on Thursday, eight Republicans voted against bipartisan legislation to end normal trade relations with Russia.

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