A House candidate considered a rising star in the GOP launched a campaign attack website accusing a critic of going "to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office."
Cawthorn blamed poor "syntax" for the racist message, which he said didn't "convey my intended meaning."
“The syntax of our language was unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing (New Jersey senator) Cory Booker,” he said in a statement he posted on Twitter. "My intended meaning was, and is, to condemn left-wing identity politics that is dangerous and divisive. I have condemned racism and identity politics throughout my campaign."
The intended target of the attack was Tom Fiedler, a political journalist turned university dean who now works for a local news organization in North Carolina. Cawthorn argued Fielder "advocates" for Moe Davis, the Democratic candidate in North Carolina's 11th congressional district.
Fiedler left Boston University to work on Booker's 2020 presidential campaign, a decision he said he'd made in part because the New Jersey senator had "not enjoyed the privileges of being a white male."
The revised version of the Fiedler section of the site now calls him "a political operative" and an "unapologetic defender of left-wing identity politics." There's no mention of his work for "non-white males."
Davis tweeted out a New York Times story on Cawthorn's remarks on Friday morning, and said their district "deserves better than a habitual lying racist."
Cawthorn and Davis, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, are locked in a surprisingly tight race in the Republican stronghold as they vie for White House chief of staff Mark Meadows' old seat.
Cawthorn, 25, pulled off a shocking primary victory in June, when he was running against a candidate who was backed by President Donald Trump and heavily favored to win.
Trump has since backed the young real estate investor, and gave him a prime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention in August.
“To liberals, let’s have a conversation. Be a true liberal, listen to other ideas and let the best ones prevail,” Cawthorn said then. He also made factual errors in a history lesson in his speech, including stating that his "personal favorite" James Madison was 25 when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Madison never signed the document.