The most entertaining interview I’ve heard with Gov. Pat McCrory had nothing to do with state politics — or very little at least.
It was mainly about barbecue and football. And it was bizarre, but rather funny at times. And refreshing, but bizarre still.
The first-term Republican governor gave a 12-minute interview on local sports radio last week to talk about his barbecue wager with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley over the football game between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
McCrory came off as a regular guy. Not the one who battles endlessly with the General Assembly over infrastructure bonds and historic preservation and economic incentives and personalities. And he came off as a guy with a goofy personality, not the one who gave a boring, 80-minute “State of the State” speech early this year.
The interview with Adam Gold and Joe Ovies of 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh began with one of the hosts asking McCrory how much North Carolina barbecue and which type — eastern or western — he’d send to South Carolina if UNC lost the game.
“I knew jerks like you would ask me that question,” McCrory said chuckling. “You’re putting me on the spot now, buddy.”
The governor said he wouldn’t be pulled down into a debate over which N.C. barbecue is better — the vinegar-based eastern variety or the tomato-based western type.
“Politicians lose gubernatorial campaigns on that type of issue. You know what I do. I mix the two together. That’s what I do,” he said. He likely referred to 1984 gubernatorial candidate Rufus Edmisten, who made a derogatory comment about barbecue because he had eaten so much of it on the campaign trail and then lost a fairly close race to Gov. Jim Martin.
That well-documented comment now is a mainstay in books about barbecue, although Edmisten told me he doesn’t think it made a difference in his election defeat.
Edmisten, a Raleigh attorney, said McCrory was wise to ask North Carolinians in an online survey which type of barbecue should be sent to Haley, rather than choose himself, alienating half of the state.
Then McCrory bashed South Carolina relentlessly. He said he saw Haley going to a concert in Charlotte a couple of months ago. “She had to come to Charlotte to have fun,” he said. “What’s there to do in South Carolina?”
He then said Wilmington was on the verge of becoming a better coastal city than Charleston.
“We’re going to start having Wilmington kick Charleston’s tail in travel and tourism,” McCrory said. “Charleston gets too much publicity.” He then said N.C. beaches are better, too. “We actually have blue water,” McCrory said. “They have brown water.”
He also talked about the football game. He mentioned South Carolina’s quarterback, Connor Mitch, who is from Raleigh. “The only chance they’re going to win is to have a Raleigh quarterback,” McCrory said.
When he was done with South Carolina, the Republican got into state politics for a second.
“This is my problem as governor. I trash talk like this to the legislature,” he said. “That’s why they’re still in session.”
So we’ve seen the emotional McCrory, like when he shed tears as former Health and Human Secretary Secretary Aldona Wos resigned her position this year. Now we’ve seen McCrory’s goofier side.
What McCrory will we see next? Maybe a sports radio host?
“Governor, if this political thing doesn’t work out for you, sports talk radio might be your next thing,” Ovies told him toward the end of the interview. “I’m just saying, you’ve got the delivery. You’ve got your takes. I think you’re ready for this.”
Patrick Gannon is the editor of N.C. Insider.