In case you are wondering how things are going for Gov. Pat McCrory two weeks after he signed a sweeping anti-LGBT bill that has prompted widespread outrage and opposition from more than 120 CEOs of major corporations, his visit to Wilmington Wednesday afternoon is a pretty good barometer.
McCrory came to town to crown the 2016 Azalea Queen, though his office announced the visit publicly only a couple of hours before the event.
An account in the Wilmington Star-News picks things up from there.
During his short speech, McCrory said several belles visited his office in Raleigh in March as part of the festival’s lead-up, but there is nothing quite like being in Wilmington.
“Wilmington always has a good time,” McCrory said. “It is one of my favorite cities in the United States.”
After the coronation, McCrory was escorted to a boat docked at the marina and left without taking any media questions or greeting guests.
Not only did McCrory, who loves shaking hands and relishes playing the role of Mayor of North Carolina, leave without greeting any of the guests, he was literally whisked away by boat to avoid any questions from the media about HB2, the legislation that McCrory signed March 23 just hours after the General Assembly passed it in a rushed one-day special session.
McCrory can’t go anywhere now without facing questions about the legislation. He keeps saying it is all about public safety since it overturns the Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
Hundreds of cities and thousands of businesses have had similar policies in place for years without any issues, but McCrory keeps saying it anyway.
He never mentions that the law also bans Charlotte and other cities from protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment and public accommodations.
Or that it prohibits workers illegally fired because of their race or religion from suing in state court.
But it doesn’t matter if McCrory mentions those aspects of the law or not. Plenty of people in North Carolina and around the country are talking about them.
The reaction to HB2 has dominated state news since McCrory signed the bill and the decision by PayPal to abandon plans to bring 400 jobs to Charlotte because of it has only increased the pressure on McCrory to respond.
His surrogates reacted to PayPal’s decision by bitterly bashing the company, which isn’t making the problems with other corporate leaders any better.
McCrory’s brief and last minute Wilmington appearance, complete with the boat escape from the media, comes after a Tuesday event at his high school in Guilford County where he announced his teacher pay and education proposals for this summer’s General Assembly session.
News accounts say McCrory scolded reporters for asking about HB2 and later took refuge in the school to avoid more questions about the law. His education proposals received far less attention than PayPal’s decision to cancel its Charlotte project because of the law McCrory signed.
Last week McCrory abruptly cut off questions at an event to unveil a highway sign in Goldsboro because reporters asked several questions about HB2. A few days before, at his first public appearance since signing the controversial bill, McCrory complained that reporters were “blindsiding” him by asking questions about how the legislation affects other local anti-discrimination ordinances.
McCrory is clearly now a governor under siege, a situation that is not likely to change any time soon. If he is not going to face reporters and answer all their questions, he better plan more slick getaways when he appears in public.
Maybe he can climb down a rope from a helicopter at his next event and climb back up after his remarks so media types can’t ask their pesky questions.
There are other ways McCrory could handle the mess he created of course. He could hold a news conference and answer all the questions about the law he signed. If he still supports it, he ought to be able to defend it.
Or even more appropriately, he could realize the error of his ways and acknowledge the damage the sweeping discrimination law is doing to North Carolina and demand the General Assembly repeal it.
The state is now a damaged brand with its endorsement of discrimination in legislation that may end up defining McCrory’s first term in office.
He is in charge after all. It is his state and it is his law, whether he wants to answer questions about it or not.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch