Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory took a swipe at High Point furniture manufacturers during a brief appearance before the State Board of Education Wednesday.
McCrory used his time to both talk about education and explain why he vetoed a pair of bills. One of those measures extends from 90 days to nine months the amount of of time an employee can work without having his or her immigration status checked against the federal E-Verify database.
Agricultural interests pushed for the veto override, and backers of the bill mostly cited farm interests in arguing for an override. But McCrory said other industries were at play.
"Some of the manufacturers in towns like High Point worked hard for this bill because they, frankly, want to hire illegal immigrants as opposed to North Carolina workers and paying good wages," McCrory said.
The governor did not stop to take questions from reporters after that appearance.
Later in the day, McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo acknowledged the quote.
"He means it," she said, adding that the information about manufacturers came from "private discussions."
Leaders from around High Point did not seem to appreciate McCrory's broadside.
High Point is home to a massive semi-annual furniture trade show, and despite layoffs in the industry over the past two decades, it is still home to furniture manufacturing and assembly operations. More broadly, North Carolina is home to or the American headquarters for dozens of furniture manufacturing operations.
Told of McCrory's quote, Jaclyn Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a major manufacturing trade group based in High Point, paused.
"I'm not aware of a preference by any home furnishings manufacturer in the High Point area for hiring illegal aliens as opposed to North Carolina citizens," Hirschhaut said.
Rep. John Faircloth, R-High Point, said the governor had used "unfortunate wording" and was not correct about the motivations of manufacturers.
Some manufacturers were working in concert with farm groups because they were concerned about their ability to hire workers for physically demanding jobs, Faircloth said.
"I did not hear anybody say they were doing it because they wanted to hire illegals," he said. "I think that's going a bit far afield."