Days after the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Raleigh, North Carolina, statehouse reporter Gary Robertson landed a scoop that echoed across news websites, opinion pages and cable producers’ inboxes: Voting reform groups were preparing constitutional challenges against the candidacy of GOP members of Congress who supported the uprising or attempts to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
Robertson received a tip from an advocacy group that its first target would be Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., challenging his candidacy in 2022 by citing a portion of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally used to prevent Confederates who took up arms during the Civil War from serving. Other members of Congress who support efforts to overturn the 2020 election would be subject to similar challenges.
Robertson conducted interviews and used his connections with a former state Supreme Court attorney to ensure he got immediate word of the complaint being filed with the State Board of Elections. His story, written in advance, moved within minutes of the confirmation. Cawthorn's office responded quickly, telling the AP that the voters who filed the challenge ”are comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment for political gain.”
The story quickly amassed an impressive 176,000 social media views, was credited in media outlets from Raleigh’s News & Observer to People magazine, and was cited in a Washington Post opinion piece. And the AP story drew more attention after a producer for ”The Rachel Maddow Show“ emailed it to a colleague while accidentally copying Cawthorn’s office. The producer expressed concern that Cawthorn might want to appear on Maddow’s show, prompting the conservative congressman to lash out at MSNBC.