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Cawthorn video hits Davis’ record as Guantanamo prosecutor

But attack alleging Asheville Democrat “defended terrorists” lacks facts

In the western North Carolina congressional campaign already notable for its bare-knuckled ferocity, GOP candidate Madison Cawthorn’s latest attack video against Democrat Morris (Moe) Davis stands out: TERRORIST DEFENDER, the video proclaims in bold text and shock-inducing graphics. 

“Moe Davis’ record shows he’s no patriot,” reads the text. 

His actions against America make him unfit to serve,” it continues.

 Then this: “Moe Davis has sided with foreign enemies over our own country numerous times.”

Cawthorn’s accusations brand Davis a traitor, the worst accusation that could be leveled at any veteran military officer. Davis, 62, is a retired Air Force colonel and decorated military lawyer whose 25 years of service culminated as the chief prosecutor of alleged al-Qaeda combatants imprisoned at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo, Cuba. 

The 25-year-old Republican candidate making the accusation,


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Tweet Storm: Candidate Attacks with Expletives, Vulgarity

Davis blames anger over Trump, Republican extremism

Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic images and expletives, reflecting the verbatim language used by the candidate.

Moe Davis has urged Democrats to stomp on the necks of certain Republicans, called Donald Trump the “dumbest f*cking president in history” and described GOP senators currying favor with the president in vulgar, graphic terms. 

Just before Christmas, he tweeted that Trump had turned evangelicals into “a klan of un-Christlike hypocrites who betray everything Jesus stood for.” Earlier, he wrote, “you can’t be for @realDonaldTrump and for Jesus.”

The retired Air Force colonel and Democrat running for the 11th district congressional seat is a prolific social media poster. His Twitter account, @ColMorrisDavis, has more than 161,000 followers and nearly 92,000 tweets, many of them strongly defending democratic principles and positions.

But they also include expletive-laced,


Debate Fact-Checker: Zingers, Jabs and Lies

Congressional candidates’ claims rated for truthfulness

Madison Cawthorn and Moe Davis exchanged accusations, some of them false, at a pair of debates this month.

In their first public face-off, the candidates vying for the increasingly competitive 11th district congressional seat, Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis, touted their differences on just about all issues and hurled accusations, with each calling the other “fast and loose” with the facts. Who was telling the truth? AVL Watchdog fact-checked some of the claims made at the Sept. 4-5 debates at Western Carolina University and rated them as true, false or misleading.

TOPIC: Welfare

THE CLAIM: In the first debate (at 1:17:08), Davis accused Cawthorn of wanting “to end welfare to balance the budget because it encourages single women, particularly minority women to have more babies so they get bigger checks.”

FACT-CHECK: We find this claim to be TRUE.

At a May 21 meeting at the Cherokee County Republican Party,


From Military Prosecutor to Congressional Candidate

Democrat “Moe” Davis: a non-conformist who challenged authority


For Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, a career military lawyer, the assignment he won in 2005 could solidify his opportunity to become a general. The North Carolina native – and now the Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district — was named chief prosecutor of the alleged al Qaeda terrorists imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba where they were subject to military justice. 

Davis embraced the challenge, likening his assignment to the prosecutors who brought Nazi war criminals to trial at Nuremberg after World War II. The tall, physically imposing officer quickly earned a reputation as an aggressive, by-the-book prosecutor inclined in frequent press conferences to trash-talk opposing lawyers and to mock the prisoners, most of whom had been captured in the months after the 9/11 attacks on Afghanistan’s battlefields or in CIA operations.


Cawthorn Mingles With Far-Right Fringe

Disavows QAnon But Repeats Debunked Theory

Cawthorn appears in several photos on social media with Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the Senate in Delaware and a QAnon supporter.

Conservative congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn, scheduled to speak Wednesday at the GOP national convention, traveled to Texas last month to visit a private border wall and echoed discredited child sex trafficking claims promoted by the extremist conspiracy theory movement.

The July 30 event, billed as a “political seminar,” was held at the border wall built by the crowdfunding campaign whose organizers, most notably former Trump-adviser Stephen Bannon, were charged last week with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors. 

In a campaign video posted on Instagram, Cawthorn invoked an unsubstantiated claim popular among fringe conspiracy theorists.

“Sure, there are children being human-trafficked across our border north into our country for sex slavery and many things that are unspeakable and terrible to think of,” a somber Cawthorn said. “But what’s really going on is we are having a large group of cartels coming into our country,


Candidate’s claim creates false impression

Cawthorn rejected by Naval Academy

A campaign video says Cawthorn "planned on serving his country in the Navy with a nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. But all that changed in the spring of 2014 when tragedy struck." --

The narrative created by Republican congressional-candidate Madison Cawthorn paints a picture of a bright, young man headed to the U.S. Naval Academy until he was severely injured in an auto crash. 

“Madison was homeschooled in Hendersonville and was nominated to the Naval Academy by Rep. Mark Meadows in 2014,” according to the 11th district candidate’s website. “However, Madison’s plans were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.”     

But in a 2017 sworn deposition obtained by AVL Watchdog, Cawthorn admitted his application to the Academy had already been rejected before the crash. The campaign did not comment, despite repeated requests over several days.

The Naval Academy reference is a key part of the 25-year-old’s public portrait, featuring prominently in his campaign speeches and interviews.


Cawthorn Takes a Hard-Right Turn

‘Pro-Trump,’ defends use of symbols tied to white nationalism

When then 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn easily defeated a Trump-backed rival to capture the GOP nomination in Western North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, he declared that his mission would be to rescue his party from a “generational time bomb.”

Charismatic, telegenic, social media-savvy and deeply rooted in the region, the Hendersonville native reveled in the national news reports that, if elected, he would become one of the youngest people ever sent to Congress and a bridge to his party’s future. 

“Move over AOC,” asserts a cartoonish video on his campaign website where his smiling photo shoves aside one of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 31-year-old favorite of the Democratic left known widely as AOC.

GOP congressional candidate aspires to be the conservative alternative to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, widely known as AOC.

Cawthorn told a New York Times interviewer that he was motivated to seek office “because I believe there’s a generational time bomb going off in the Republican Party… 


Come Back Tourists; Oops, Never Mind

TDA ads start, stop as virus surges

Buncombe County’s Tourist Development Authority began advertising for tourists to visit Asheville again – on the same day that the county’s top public health official said coronavirus cases were “rising at an alarming rate.”

The ad campaign, designed to promote “the safe and responsible return of visitation,” featured social media posts like one picturing a young couple picnicking on the bank of a river. “We invite you to pack your bags and masks, and safely experience our mountain oasis.”

On July 14, just five days after the ads began, the TDA pulled the plug. The reason: a viral surge – both of the pandemic kind, and of a social media variety.

The TDA had planned for the first scenario, monitoring Covid-19 trends in the target area, a 300-mile radius considered drivable to Asheville. When the campaign launched,


Asheville Police calls: Roadmap for Defunding?

Data suggest options to rethink role of officers

Angaza Laughinghouse

Of 911 calls and requests for assistance to Asheville Police, less than 1 percent involve a violent crime, an AVL Watchdog analysis of police dispatch data shows.

Much of the time, police are summoned to routine calls such as traffic accidents, domestic disputes and loud parties or non-violent crimes like shoplifting, trespassing and prostitution, according to the analysis of more than two years of 911 calls.

“The reality of policing is that the majority of their time is spent on things totally unrelated to crime,’’ said Matthew Robinson, a professor of criminal justice at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. “We know that 75 to 80 percent of an officer’s time is spent providing social services and routine administrative tasks like filling out reports.”

The role of law enforcement and questions about whether some police functions are better delegated to trained,


Travel industry controls North Carolina’s room tax laws

Buncombe’s share less than other NC counties, neighboring states

Funds from the Buncombe County room tax have been used for renovations of Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville.

A bill that would have changed the distribution of Buncombe County’s controversial hotel tax to better benefit local government is likely dead until at least next year.

The change would have reduced the share of room tax money to market and advertise Asheville as a tourist destination and increase the amount that could be used for local projects benefitting visitors and residents – a hot-button issue before Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests.

As it is, the local share of the tax revenue is smaller in Buncombe than most other North Carolina places that levy a tax and tourist destinations like Charleston, S.C., Charlottesville, Va. and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. And unlike in the neighboring states, no hotel tax money is available to pay for indirect costs of tourism, such as increased policing and maintenance of streets and sidewalks.