A 9/11 first responder called the display ‘immature’
North Carolina representative Madison Cawthorn was caught cleaning his gun on Thursday during a virtual congressional hearing about veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals during the line of duty.
Observers spotted the Republican congressman toying with a pistol during the testimony of Jen Burch, a six-year Air Force veteran who later developed breathing problems after being exposed to a toxic military “burn pit” in Afghanistan.
“It was immature. He’s a child. He lacks common sense. I think the congressman was overcompensating for something that he lacks and feeling inadequate among the heroes on that call,” John Feal, a 9/11 first responder who was at the virtual meeting, told The Daily Beast.
“Imagine you showed up for a Zoom meeting and a colleague decided that was when he needed to clean his gun,” wrote Lindsay Church, co-founder of Minority Veterans of America, on Twitter, alongside a screenshot of Mr Cawthorn with his weapon. “Because that’s what happened today in a Congressional roundtable on toxic exposure. We’re better than this.”
When asked about his handling of a gun during the hearing, a spokesperson for the representative said, “What could possibly be more patriotic than guns and veterans?”
Civilians are banned from possessing guns on Capitol Hill, but lawmakers are allowed to keep firearms in their offices.
The upset among some at the hearing is not the only time Mr Cawthorn has been tangled in a military-related scandal. As he campaigned for national office, he told voters he lost the ability to walk in a car crash, which left him unable to attend the US Naval Academy and serve in the military. In fact, as journalist Tom Fielder reported, the service academy had already rejected him before the accident took place.
The hearing, conducted over Zoom before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, focused on “burn pits,” a method of burning trash at military sites that soldiers say left them with long-lasting health problems including heart, lung, and digestive issues.
The hearing featured testimony from a number of veterans, as well as comedian and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart.