Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday he did "nothing improper" when he accepted an accelerated stock payout from Tree.com, which was first detailed by the Associated Press earlier this week.
Tree.com is the Charlotte-based corporate parent of Lending Tree. McCrory served on its board before being elected governor, and the AP's reporting indicates that the company took some unusual steps to pay for $171,071 in stock he would have otherwise lost because he left the board before his term on the board of directors was up. That payout came after he become governor and had the authority to appoint members of the state banking commission.
"We did nothing improper, we did nothing unethical, we followed all the rules of North Carolina, and we surely didn't do anything illegal," McCrory said in an interview with WRAL News.
McCrory said he was proud of his work for the lender and described the AP story as "almost like a political commercial." The governor said he saw the story as one that "has political hand prints all over it."
Since the story's publication, McCrory has vigorously pushed back, issuing numerous statements from the Governor's Office and his campaign, including an eight-point refutation of the story and a 34-page critique of the reporter's prior work.
"I think it was close to malice, some of the things he said in the story," McCrory said.
Asked if it was appropriate to take such a strong stance, including impugning the work of a specific reporter, McCrory replied, "Absolutely."
"If someone is saying something, especially attacking your integrity, and they're misleading the public, you better fight back," he said.
Paul Colford, director of media relations for the Associated Press, said the wire service stands behind its work.
"We have reviewed our work very carefully and stand behind the reporting," Colford said.
The Associated Press is a wire service owned by its U.S.-based members. Information and stories on the AP wires appear in media outlets across the country and around the world, including on WRAL.com and in WRAL News broadcasts.