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N.C. Sen. Paul Lowe apologizes after accosting Policy Watch reporter

Sen Paul Lowe Jr., D-Forsyth

North Carolina state Sen. Paul Lowe has apologized after a Policy Watch reporter said the senator assaulted him and hurled his phone in the hallway of the Legislative Building Wednesday morning.

Joe Killian, investigative reporter for Policy Watch, says he was covering Wednesday’s budget drama at approximately 10:20 a.m. when he heard screaming from behind a closed door, followed by a shout for police assistance.

Afterward, Killian said he saw Lowe — a Forsyth County Democrat — exiting the room, flanked by Democratic senators Floyd McKissick Jr. and Jay Chaudhuri. When he began filming with his phone, Lowe approached Killian.

Killian provided footage of the altercation with Lowe (see below for the video). In it, Lowe can be heard asking, “What are you doing with your camera?” 

“I’m a journalist,” Killian began to reply, before Killian said Lowe grabbed at his hand to snatch his phone.  

After a brief struggle, Killian says the two-term state senator, a pastor at a Winston-Salem church, threw Killian’s phone across the room and stormed away. Killian says he was not injured in the altercation.

“What happened today isn’t just an assault on me,” Killian said in a statement. “It’s an assault on the free press. Any North Carolinian should be able to visit the General Assembly without being assaulted. Working journalists, now more than ever, have to be able to do their jobs there without fear of assault or destruction of their professional equipment. Representatives of the people of North Carolina should understand that.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Lowe apologized, but declined to discuss why he approached Killian in such an aggressive manner, or what was happening behind that closed door.

“I apologize for anything that I’ve done,” Lowe said. “It was an unfortunate circumstance. I apologize for that circumstance. I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk with him.”

Rob Schofield, director of Policy Watch, offered this statement:

“Senator Lowe’s unprovoked actions this morning targeted a working journalist just doing his job. They were outrageous, unacceptable, and sadly indicative of a trend we’ve seen from an alarming number of public officials.”

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue added this statement: 

“Based on the accounts reported to me, I see Senator Lowe’s actions as wholly unacceptable. I will do everything in my capacity as the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus to see that it is never repeated.”

Killian said General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock interviewed him briefly after the incident. Brock did not respond to a phone call Wednesday afternoon. 

The incident occurred in the tense hours after Republican lawmakers held a surprise vote on the state House floor early Wednesday when many Democrats were absent, overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the $24 billion budget. 

Democrats were incensed, claiming GOP leadership said there would be no voting in the chamber Wednesday. But House Speaker Tim Moore denied there was any announcement that no votes would be held in session Wednesday. 

At the time of the incident, lawmakers, including Lowe, were holding closed-door meetings following the vote, which brought Republicans one step closer to ending the budget impasse with Cooper.

Billy Ball is the managing editor of N.C. Policy Watch. 

10 Comments


  1. jhf

    September 11, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Democrats must remember how the legislature of N.C. ended up passing the lottery vote; during holiday midnight hours. That was the most deceitful and harmful action of this century against the citizens of N.C.

    This newest vote to override a budget veto was made during normal session daylight hours. Our current lawmakers want to protect N.C. citizens from abusive spending and longterm obligations that will burden our children for many many years to come.

  2. chuck parris

    September 11, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    Should he not be charged with assault? If a simple tax payer grabbed a phone from a newspaper reporter, he would be charged.

  3. Tom Butler

    September 12, 2019 at 5:55 am

    This is truly a sad day for NC.

  4. Walle, A.

    September 12, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Channeling Officer Cole of the Greensboro Police Department never goes well.

  5. Barbara Walls

    September 12, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    False equivalency comparing Senate lottery vote in 2005 and budget override by House Speaker Moore on Sept. 11th.

    1. Lottery was a single issue that was not completely partisan, as some liberal Dems opposed because it is a regressive tax and some libertarian type Reps supported because of being pro-business. Senate vote in opposition was 19 Reps along with 5 Dems. Current travesty was on the state budget, or policy priorities that reflect the basic governing of the whole state for two years and was completely partisan!
    2. The call for the Senate to return was made publicly at 2 in the afternoon and it did take a vote by Senate President, Lt. Gov. Perdue to break the tie, but this was done above board, not secretly. Yes, Senate majority leader Bassnight knew two Republican Senators could not make it and that is why he did it and that was a questionable decision, BUT it was done openly, he did not lie about it as Moore did. The vast majority of the opposition was not there because they had been lied to as was the case of the missing Dems. That their absence was for a memorial for 9/11 responders may be abhorrent to many, but that it is ignored or played down by the Moore’s supporters is just an example of how unconscionable this is to reasonable persons.

    Again, these are not the same things. The Senate could and did survive the vote on the lottery, the NC House will not survive this. The legitimacy of the GOP Koch brothers paid for gerrymandered district seats majority was already in question, now with all the rules and norms destroyed, democracy was destroyed too. Any attempts to say this is business as usual denies the history and understanding of how the North Carolina’s General Assembly functions.

  6. JBL

    September 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Assault, damage to property. If charges can be filed, they should be filed to send a message that this is not ok behaviour. Not by anyone, and not by elected officials. Half-hearted apology to boot.

  7. Harry

    September 13, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    NC General Statutes section 14-33 Class 2 misdeamenor was committed within a NC governmental complex. Simple assault on a journalist should not be taken lightly and an “apology” should extend to the jail cell and the courtroom. This was an attack on a white man by a black man. This would ABSOLUTELY be spun into a racial issue if the color of the attacker was reversed. What a double standard. Why wasn’t he arrested?

  8. Brent Kovac

    September 13, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    what 9/11 memorial were these democrats at specifically ?
    Not that i believe more than 1 was at a 9/11 event ..but ive been hearing people try to drag 9/11 into this and i think it’s despicable ..because i don’t believe any of them were .. So where was this event and let’s have some pictires or video of the Democrat minority at this or these events ..
    When the dust settles …the lies and deceit is going to be from the minority ..

  9. Skinc

    September 13, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    All the crying please stop and move on past it. Get busy with running our state for the people.

  10. Ashamed in NC

    September 14, 2019 at 5:06 am

    I am in total shock of what I just watched/read. As a white male, I would have been arrested immediately had I taken the same action towards a black man. We truly do live in a double standard society that truly sickens me. Also, what if this had been a republican law maker attacking a journalist???? The security and fallout would have been Irreversible. And for the record, i AM NOT a republican. This matter should be taken seriously as this is unacceptable behavior…..especially by a pastor/politician. Where is our justice system now????

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