Image via Bennett's campaign page. Lynda Bennett, Trump's handpicked candidate for Mark Meadows' vacated congressional seat, lost this week.
Image via Bennett's campaign page.

Trump made the claim in a phone call to the winner, Madison Cawthorn. But the truth is more complicated, Axios reports.

Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old real estate investor and political unknown who defeated President Trump’s handpicked candidate in the 11th Congressional district GOP primary this week, received a phone call from Trump himself, Axios is reporting.

During that conversation, according to Axios, Trump claimed not to know Cawthorn’s opponent, Lynda Bennett. But the truth is more complicated than that. 

Axios reported that Trump tweeted his endorsement of Bennett in June after Debbie Meadows, Mark Meadows’ wife, persuaded the president to support the candidate, who happened to be her close friend. Mark Meadows left the seat to be Trump’s chief of staff.

When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Trump that Cawthorn was likely to win, the president urged his Twitter followers to donate to Bennett in an attempt to boost her campaign.

The source also alleged that Trump was motivated to help Bennett because he wanted to preserve his near perfect record of endorsing winners in Republican primaries — something the president often boasted about.

Like Bennett, Cawthorn also has ties to Mark Meadows. He was once the chief of staff’s intern, and he also received support from the House Freedom Caucus that Meadows once led.

Madison Cawthorn
Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old from western NC, defeated Trump’s pick in the GOP primary for Mark Meadows’ seat.

In a 12-candidate primary in early March, Bennett fell short of the 30% of the vote she needed to win. Cawthorn, who finished second, called for the runoff election. Originally scheduled for May, the runoff was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for Tuesday.

Cawthorn’s campaign also got help from a super PAC allied with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, while Bennett received support from Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Despite the president’s endorsement of Cawthorn’s opponent, Cawthorn emphasized this week that he remains a staunch Trump supporter.

“I support our great president,” Cawthorn said in a statement, “ I do not believe this election has been a referendum on the president’s influence.”

Cawthorn goes on to face Democrat Moe Davis in November. Though redrawn the district is still considered Republican-leaning. If elected, Cawthorn will be the youngest member of Congress.