The Charlotte Business Journal posted a lengthy interview that conservative financier Art Pope gave to reporter Erik Spanberg this morning. For the most part, Pope merely recites the usual partisan and ideological talking points that he has inflicted on followers of North Carolina politics for decades: Tax cuts are good. Public spending is bad. Gov. McCrory, who made Pope his first budget director, is doing a fabulous job of “helping and serving the people of North Carolina.” Pope also confirms once again that he doesn’t support Donald Trump for President, but frustratingly, Spanberg doesn’t appear to have asked why.
The real newsy part of the interview, however, is Pope’s McCrory-like rap on HB2 and Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Though Pope attracted some publicity during the legislative session for saying the legislature went too far with HB2 and expressing support for a commission that would somehow review the issue and make recommendations in 2017 (i.e. after the NBA All-Star Game would have taken place and much of the political pressure against HB2 would have subsided), he makes clear in the interview that, in his view, the whole issue is the fault of Democrats, leaders in the city of Charlotte and LGBT rights advocates.
According to Pope:
- it was inappropriate and likely unconstitutional for the city of Charlotte to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance — something it did in response to months of public debate and that mirrored the actions of scores of states and cities around the country,
- the attacks on HB2 were “a smear campaign being conducted by Human Rights Campaign encouraged by the Democratic party to encourage boycotts of North Carolina” and
- the failure of a so-called “compromise” bill that would have returned North Carolina law to where it was before the Charlotte ordinance (i.e. a place in which LGBT discrimination in employment and public accommodations was perfectly legal) and promised to “study” the matter failed because of — wait for it — opposition from the Human Rights Campaign and Attorney General Roy Cooper.
And while he does allow that “there are some genuine concerns by the LGBT community that could and should have been addressed,” he also makes the outrageous and downright delusional statement that “Before the Charlotte ordinance, North Carolina didn’t have any controversy over discrimination against (the) LGBT community or the use of bathrooms.”
It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that a supposedly well-informed citizen would utter such a head-in-the-sand claim.
And as for the failure of the “compromise” being the fault of HRC and Cooper, how can that possibly be when Republicans have overwhelming legislative majorities, as well as control of the Governor’s office? Conservative leaders have been riding roughshod over the Democrats and LGBT advocates for years. Now, when they can’t muster the votes to repeal some of their own handiwork, it’s the fault of people who opposed it in the first place?
The bottom line: Pope has been trying to position himself in recent months as a “moderate” on HB2, but when push comes to shove, it’s clear that: a) he just doesn’t get the reality of LGBT discrimination and b) he is, first and foremost a partisan who simply can’t admit the fact that his political friends and allies made a grievous and destructive error that is causing enormous damage to our state.