Trump Pick Joe Kent Backs Madison Cawthorn's Attack on 'Thug' Zelensky

Joe Kent, a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate from Washington state, on Saturday backed up remarks from Representative Madison Cawthorn, who called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a "thug."

In a video clip published on Thursday by local news station WRAL-TV, Cawthorn, a North Carolina Republican, is seen insulting Zelensky, who has received bipartisan praise for leading Ukraine during the Russian invasion that began last month.

"Remember that Zelensky is a thug," he said. "Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies."

Kent, who is challenging GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, tweeted on Saturday that Cawthorn "nailed it."

"Zelenskyy was installed via a US backed color revaluation, his goal is to move his county west so he virtue signals in woke ideology while using nazi battalions to crush his enemies," he wrote. "He was also smart enough to cut our elite in on the graft."

Kent received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump against Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot. He is running in Washington's Third Congressional District, which contains Vancouver and other northern suburbs of Portland, Oregon.

Washington state uses the "jungle primary" model, meaning that within the primary, the two candidates who receive the most votes—regardless of party—will advance to the general. A February poll from the Trafalgar Group showed Kent and Democrat Brent Hennrich advancing to the runoff, with Kent winning 26 percent of the vote to Herrera Beutler's 22 percent.

In the 2020 presidential election, Trump won the district by less than 5 percentage points.

Several Republicans condemned Cawthorn's remarks, with some accusing him of promoting Russian propaganda.

"This is the sad but successful impact of Russia's cyber operation that we've seen pushed and promoted on conservative outlets. The threat is real and it's dangerous. Case in point: a sitting US Congressman is echoing Putin propaganda," U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, tweeted on Thursday.

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst addressed the comments in the Senate, recalling her experience traveling to Ukraine in 1989, two years before it broke from the Soviet Union. "The Ukrainians want to be free, they have been fighting for this for the past 30 years and to just hand them over to an actual murderous thug called Vladimir Putin, is the wrong thing to do," she said.

Kent previously faced scrutiny over remarks he made about replacement theory, which is a conspiracy theory claiming that white people are being "replaced" by non-white immigrants.

Newsweek reached out to Kent's and Herrera Beutler's campaign for comment Saturday afternoon. This story will be updated with any response.

Correction 03/13/2022, 3:40 p.m. ET: This article was updated with the correct spelling of Democratic candidate Brent Hennrich's name. The article previously misspelled his last name.

Trump-endorsed Joe Kent backs Cawthorn on Zelensky
Trump-endorsed congressional candidate Joe Kent backed up comments made by GOP Representative Madison Cawthorn calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, above, a “thug.” CARLO BRESSAN/AFP via Getty Images