Another week and another foot-in-mouth incident for a conservative North Carolina politician. Last week it was House Speaker Thom Tillis and his crack about “traditional voters.” Now this week it’s former State Representative and current state GOP Vice-Chairperson Carolyn Justice in an awkward attempt to defend Tillis. This is from a story on yesterday’s Washington Post “She the People” blog entitled “North Carolina Republicans try — despite themselves — to win minority voters”:
“Last week, before the RNC announcement, Carolyn Justice, vice chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in an interview on “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE, the local NPR affiliate, that critics of the Tillis ‘traditional’ voter comments were just misinterpreting what the man she called “the most non-prejudiced human I have met” said. In a tough Senate contest, “We’re going to go for every little thread we can pull?” she wondered.
Then she went on to give an example of how anyone’s words can be twisted. ‘I can tell you lots of things that Mr. Barber has said; if I look at it with a jaundiced eye, I can see communist behind every curtain.’”
The story goes on to report how Justice — to questionable effect — tried to quickly backtrack from the Barber-is-a-commie implication of her statement:
“Justice insisted that that reference was not her intent when asked by She the People to clarify. ‘If I looked at some of the things that the Moral Monday folks are saying (represented by Rev. Barber), with a jaundiced eye, and didn’t know the folks involved in the General Assembly I might come away thinking that Republicans in the General Assembly are hard, uncaring, cruel people who are not concerned about poor people. As a former legislator who has served with many of these legislators and Thom Tillis, I know that is not true,’ she said in an e-mail. ‘I was in no way going for the jugular in an effort to slander Rev. Barber, I was simply pointing out that each of us can say things that can be misinterpreted by the hearer.’”
Justice then went on to argue that the reporter had misinterpreted her communist reference because she was too young to remember the McCarthy era (although Justice herself misidentified McCarthy as a congressman — he was actually a Senator).
The bottom line: Justice may well not have meant to directly imply that Rev. Barber is a communist, but as a veteran politician in a relatively high-profile leadership position in the state party, she really ought to know better than to make such offensive and inflammatory references — especially given the long political history of such thinly-veiled attacks on civil rights leaders in the past. At best, the reference was awkward and dumb. At worst, it was an outrageous slander in the tradition of anti-civil rights crusaders like Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and other Jesse Helms. Lets hope it was the former.
Read the entire WaPo story by clicking here.