Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope said Friday that the so-called "Moral Monday" movement is "radical left-wing" activism and accused state NAACP president William Barber of seeking to "eviscerate" state Republican leaders.
Pope held a news conference in advance of a planned Saturday march, an annual event known as "Historic Thousands on Jones Street." After much national media coverage of last year's Moral Monday protests, the turnout for this year's event is expected to be large.
Pope denounced the Moral Monday marches as an “overtly partisan, left-wing political movement” and called Barber “a radical left-wing activist” with a “fringe liberal agenda.”
“Make no mistake, tomorrow’s event is a political rally,” Pope said, “and the national left-wing groups like MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood have been recruiting liberal activists from across the country to attend the rally.
“They support Rev. Barber’s radical left-wing agenda to fully implement 'Obamacare,' raise taxes and take us back to the days of double-digit unemployment,” he added.
The NAACP has called on Republican leaders to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and to rescind deep budget cuts to education and social services. Republicans say the latter would require a tax increase, which they argue would slow the state’s economic recovery.
“Barber’s use of inflammatory, divisive and offensive rhetoric has no place in the public arena of ideas,” Pope said. “We need to have a respectful, political discourse here in North Carolina.”
“If Democrats want to have a seat at the table, they need to learn to tone down the inflammatory discourse,” he said.
He also used the occasion to slam U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, whose seat has been nationally targeted in this fall’s elections, as well as Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is expected to run for governor in 2016.
“Kay Hagan and Roy Cooper – do you support Rev. Barber’s Moral Monday political rallies?” he asked.
Pope also said Barber is taking aim at the wrong party.
“William Barber has every right to protest, but he’s protesting the wrong side. The real beef is not with Republicans but with the Democrats themselves who were so corrupt, so inept and spent the state so deeply into debt that they lost their 140-year majority,” Pope said. “Don’t get mad at Republicans because your Democratic friends screwed up.”
The annual marches began years ago, when the Democrats held power in both the legislature and the governor’s mansion, and Barber was a vocal critic of decisions made by leaders at that time as well.
The GOP chairman also accused legislative Democrats of being unwilling to work with the Republican majority, quoting a 2012 white paper crafted by Blueprint NC, a liberal organizing group, that recommended Democrats attempt to “eviscerate” Republican leaders.
Blueprint NC is not part of the state Democratic Party, and its recommendations were not endorsed or supported by any elected Democrats or party leaders, but Republicans have long insisted that it represents the Democrats’ official position.
Pope called Barber the “de facto head of the Democratic party” and accused him of trying to execute the Blueprint strategy.
“Through [the state Democratic Party’s] endorsement of William Barber, they are basically endorsing that strategy,” he said. “That’s not a great way to begin a bipartisan working relationship.”
When WRAL News pointed out that House Speaker Thom Tillis had been heard encouraging his caucus members to “gut punch” House Democrats in floor debate in 2011, Pope downplayed the comment as intended only for a private meeting “between Republicans.”
When it was pointed out that the Blueprint memo was similarly intended to be confidential, Pope responded, “People’s passions run high, as we’ve seen in a lot of political discourse. What we’re saying today is that discourse needs to return to a normal political discourse.”