Republicans decry harsh rhetoric at 'Moral Monday' events

Posted September 17, 2013

— North Carolina Republicans may have control of the Governor's Mansion and the state legislature, but a top GOP leader said Tuesday that the state's political rhetoric has gotten out of control. 

State Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope said that recent "Moral Monday" protests, led by the NAACP and a network of liberal groups, have crossed rhetorical lines and unfairly attacked party leaders.

"Any time you get into a situation where you have inflammatory attacks, it's not good for either side," Pope said. "We want to bring the discussion back to the policies we're bringing forward. Incendiary attacks don't further that discussion." 

At least once political scientist said the Republican response to the Moral Monday protests shows the GOP is worried the demonstrations have become an "effective Democratic brand" that needs to be checked. 

"To give it attention means they're worried about it," said Steve Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Pope said he wasn't worried from a political standpoint. Rather, he was trying to bring attention to behavior that newspaper and television reporters had given "a pass." He pointed to two recent occasions in which protesters had, in his view, crossed the line. 

Protesters in Charlotte last month were "holding signs with Confederate flag images and Jim Crow language," Pope said. Those signs featured the faces of Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger against the backdrop of a Confederate battle flag to make a point about a recently passed elections law bill. Pope said those images were "outrageous and unacceptable."

He also pointed to Monday's protests in front of the Governor's Mansion. 

"NAACP protesters carried around coffins in what was described bizarrely as a reference to tragic events in Birmingham 50 years ago," Pope said.

Four young girls were killed in a church bombing five decades ago, helping to spark civil rights protests.

"How in the world does one stretch from the tragic event from the Birmingham bombings, an event likely perpetrated by a Democrat, to an open vitriolic attack on our new Republican governor?"  Pope asked.

Asked why the Republican Party, which holds most of the political cards in the state right now, would even take notice of the protests, Pope said the party and its leaders wanted to focus on policies but were being unfairly smeared. 

"When you start to use inflammatory rhetoric and you try to fan the flame that brings up a history of racism or violence perpetrated by folks who are no longer here, no longer around – to try to bring that kind of inflammatory rhetoric back and justify what they feel today – is totally off base. And one of the issues is the press seems to be buying into it."

Pope said reporters had been slow to call out what Republicans see as "incendiary" remarks.

"I think what you need to understand is Republicans feel like the media has not been as responsible in highlighting the inflammatory nature of some of those attacks," he said.

Asked for a response, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state conference of the NAACP, said he was praying for Pope and other Republican leaders.

"We must be reminded of history and, in the light of history, what is inflammatory is for the governor and legislature to pass laws that take us backwards, not forward. What is inflammatory is for the governor and the legislature to engage the kind of bullying politics that violates our deepest constitutional values and our deepest moral values," Barber wrote in an email.

Speaking specifically about the coffin images, Barber said, "When we lift up the memory of the martyrs to those who love truth and justice, it is not inflammatory – it is informative. It informs us about where we have been and inspires us to fight against going backwards as a society."

Both sides of the political spectrum, especially those fighting against large odds, could be accused of engaging in political hyperbole from time to time.

Pope spoke from the same podium that former state Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Daves used in 2008 to introduce a commercial attacking Barack Obama. Then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain said the commercial "degrades our civics" and called on the state party to pull the commercial. At the time, Republicans were out of power and facing losing the state to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades. 

During his news conference, Pope was asked whether some of the rhetoric used at tea party rallies might have been seen as at least equivalently extreme to the props used by the Moral Monday protesters.

"I think you're going to find some nuts on both sides," Pope said. 

So, was he calling the people in the pictures "nuts?" What about leaders of the Moral Monday movement, including Barber?

"I am saying that we have a range of political ideology on a lot of different sides, and you have extremes on both sides," Pope said.

Recent opinion polls have shown the popularity of both the Republican-controlled legislature and McCrory flagging from one-time highs. 

"If Moral Monday wasn't doing anything, they would brush it off and not give it any attention," said N.C. State's Green. 

Those leading the Moral Monday protests, Greene said, want to show themselves as a cross-section of the state, albeit a liberal-minded one. Republicans, he said, are speaking both to their base as well as moderate voters when they express outrage about the symbolism used by the protests.

"This is the Republican's chance to say 'No, look, they are a bunch of radicals,'" he said.


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  • lovelarvae Sep 20, 2013

    "Republicans decry harsh rhetoric..."

    Really? REALLY?? Wouldn't have known it from their own rhetoric.

  • for the people Sep 19, 2013

    qickly make so many changes that hurt the poor, sick, unemployeed, environment and the children of our great state (you know, the takers). That is why there is such as a movement in NC and as long as the republicans make mean-spirtied, rich protecting laws, there will be men and women of good will marching and telling the people of NC about the republicans' efforts to destroy the state we love. Sally1023

    and some folks dispute that we have a liberal media in this country? this was lifted from one of rachel maddows 'news' scripts recently..wasn't it?

    i will continue to be on record about the disgusting environmental decisions from this legislature. they are truely a step backward and not good for our great state.

  • notexactly Sep 19, 2013

    I see no damage being done to the state that hasn't been done for the last 100 years. All the problems you guys are complaining about have always been here. ( DEMS ) control. You guys just want to complain because your crooks lost . Nobody is perfect, but you guys wont give a rep a chance. You know like you want us to give barry a chance remember? Well it has been 5 years and still no good results, just blunders and lies.

  • notexactly Sep 19, 2013

    UM do you know what teebagging is? You might want to find out before you use the term.

  • notexactly Sep 19, 2013

    um wrong again. If you don't think the majority of the media outlets lean left. You are blind. I use to watch letterman every night. When barrack won the election, a week or so later he came out on national TV and said that the network would not be making fun or talking bad about Obama. But all late night comedy shows have always talked about Political figures. Especially Clinton and Bush. So why not Obama? That is liberal left as can be. I do not watch him anymore. In fact Leno is the only one that will say anything about the admin now, and he is catching heck over it. Furthermore, yes the media is owned by corps. And some of those corps. are owned by dems. SO you hate corps so much, must mean you hate dems to. wishy washy.

  • ccsmith1902 Sep 19, 2013

    Claude Pope talking about McCrory's regime being fair is a joke!!!

  • nailman5204 Sep 19, 2013

    You folks that call the Republicans regressive---this whole article goes back to problems from Five years ago.How regressive is that ? You grumbled about Purdue and now you grumble about McCrory--why don't you get out of downtown Raleigh and see what the rest of the state looks like.

  • edtomjr Sep 19, 2013

    "It is a total shame when the media cannot see or understand what is being done. The Rev. Barber and his followers are not at all about equality, they seek special privileges through intimidation and false rhetoric. Equal rights have long ago been given and they are working, but that is no longer enough."

    Only a fool would completely believe THIS rhetoric. Even republicans are fed up! Nobody is seeking MORE rights or special privileges, they're fighting against going back to times when people DID have less rights, which some of these laws are blatantly trying to accomplish.

  • perseusomega9 Sep 19, 2013

    What does Claude Pope expect after such ridiculous teebagging over reach?

  • Sally1023 Sep 19, 2013

    goncampn2... you must have literally gone camping for the last 7 months if you don't see the complete and total damage done to NC by the ga, mccrory and pope...probably not in that order.