Pat McCrory on gender, politics, and culture
Q&A | Former North Carolina governor says he’s always stood up for what’s right
by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 4/04/17, 11:10 am
Until recently, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was known as a moderate Republican who governed from a centrist position. Then he found himself at the middle of a national controversy about transgender bathroom use that some say cost him the election. I recently spoke with McCrory at a gathering of conservative activists in Orlando, Fla., where he was a featured speaker.
You ran for reelection as governor of North Carolina, and lost by a very narrow margin. Why do you think you got beat? I lost by 10,000 votes out of 4.6 million, and I think the main reason I got beat was I was outspent almost 2-1. Money does make a difference, especially in a close election. Plus, we had a Libertarian candidate, and there are probably three or four issues where the money made a difference. One issue was, of course, the HB2 bathroom issue, which most people have no idea what it really is and how it’s not just a North Carolina issue. The other issue was a toll lane issue in Charlotte, which was misrepresented, and film subsidies was another issue where I saw a vote differential, 20,000 or 30,000 votes in the Wilmington area, where the Democrats and the liberals did a very good job spending their money in the right way and misleading the public on certain issues.
We had the closest election in the country, closest election in North Carolina history. I think I lost by .001 percent. I was declared the winner at 11:30 p.m. and was declared the loser at 12:45 a.m., around that time. It’s been a tough time for me, but I accept the results. Voter ID probably made a big difference, too. The Obama administration changed our voter ID rules five weeks before the election and that no doubt allowed a lot of college students who didn’t live in state, which is against North Carolina law, to vote in this election.
Your defeat in the election has become part of the LGBT movement’s narrative. It is a part of their narrative, and they are using this 10,000-vote win as warning to any politician [not] to speak against policies, which are contrary to their agenda. They had one policy that was contrary to my agenda and that is a change in the definition of gender. That’s really what they’re trying to do is, instead of having doctors determine the definition of gender, they actually want politicians to determine the definition of gender, especially as it relates to the most private of facilities, our restrooms, locker rooms, and showers.
Was your defeat part of a larger concerted effort by the left? No doubt it was a part of an agenda. They told me, a group called the HRC, the Human Rights Campaign, which I think is more powerful than the [National Rifle Association] … put public pressure of threatened boycotts on major corporations throughout the United States with a false narrative, and it worked.
If you talk to CEOs off the record, they go, “Heck, I agree with you, Pat, but I couldn’t say anything” because they’re more worried about the bottom line of finance. It’s even impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because “Oh my gosh, he’s a bigot” which is the last thing I am. I’m actually, in some ways, rather liberal on some of these issues. I’m a Libertarian on many of these issues, but I don’t think a city government, a state government, or a federal government should be able to tell the private sector what the new definition of gender is.
How did you get caught up in the fight over HB2? I’m more of a Libertarian on this issue. When I was mayor, I had some of my conservative friends against my mass transit plan. That’s where I probably broke with some of them. But I didn’t think this definition of conservative and liberal ... I look at issue by issue, and on the issue of gender, I think it’s a well-established definition. It’s the doctor who determines the gender of a baby. You ask the doctor “Is it a boy or a girl?” You don’t ask the baby. …
In my third year in office, this issue of Charlotte threatening a jail sentence to people in the private sector if they don’t change the definition of gender to gender identity or gender expression. I thought that was wrong. Threatening a 30-day jail sentence for people in the private sector? They passed a law doing just that, and yet people don’t know that. …
I’ve always stood up for what’s right, and I’ve upset some conservatives and I’ve upset some liberals, but this one is the worst because it’s almost Orwellian that if you disagree with the politically correct thought police on this new definition of gender, you’re a bigot. You’re the worst of evil. It’s almost as though I broke a law. As you know, during my tenure as mayor, 14 years as mayor and four years as governor, one thing you never question was my ethics or my values. I do what I think is right, and yet these new thought police now are saying just the opposite. It’s a bad part of our nation going on right now. You see the same techniques being used against Trump.
You’re a private citizen now. Is it true you’ve had organizations say that because of the stand that you took on HB2, they’re reluctant to hire you? People try to brand you. The great thing of our nation is we ought to be able to have political disagreement within the private sector, corporations, cubicle to cubicle. I’m afraid you’re seeing this with the Trump presidency; people are reluctant to say they’re for Trump. People are reluctant to say, “You know what? I want to stick with the original definition of how we define boys and girls and men and women. I think men ought to use men’s locker rooms and showers.” People are reluctant to say it for fear of backlash, for fear of being called a bigot, and that’s the worst of our country going on right now—on both sides of the aisle, by the way.
The left wing is more intolerant than the right wing—and these protests. I got attacked on the streets of Washington, D.C., during the inauguration. Someone went, “There’s Pat McCrory. Let’s get him.” I’m sitting there without security, going, “Is this really happening?” It’s over this issue.
I was chased several blocks down an alley, and I was in fear of my safety. I’ve been put in some very peculiar positions over a disagreement. Now, for people who disagree with me on this gender issue, I’m going to be respectful. I’m actually empathetic to someone going through a gender identity crisis, but I’m not going to purge them from the debate, and I expect the same respect in return.
The state of Texas is dealing with this issue right now. Do you have any advice for them? They’re going to get the same pressure. They’re threatening the economics of it and the business community is not going to have the courage to stand up. Behind the scenes, they’ll go, “We agree with you.” Behind the scenes, they’ll say that. In front of the scenes, they’re going to be afraid about the public backlash of this Orwellian thought police, and they’re worried about their sales. … Houston voters rejected the same thing that we stopped Charlotte from doing. And yet, there was no public backlash.
Do you think it’s all about money? Oh, absolutely. I think people are reluctant to fight it for fear of a money backlash and it hurting their business, but they’re leaving Houston alone. The Super Bowl was played in Houston. You never heard ESPN commentators bring it up. You never heard any coaches go, “Well, I can’t go to Houston. They are discriminating.” It’s the exact same laws as North Carolina, so there is a selective hypocrisy. I’ve said this on the record. The NBA canceled their All Star game in Charlotte, and yet they go to China to play a basketball game. They see no hypocrisy there.
Would you consider getting back into politics? It was the best job I’ve ever had, the best public service job I ever had. I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve as mayor for 14 years, city councilman for six, and governor for four. I loved the job, and I would never rule out not running again, but I’ve got to ask my wife and I don’t know what my feeling will be two or three years from now. If I do decide to run, it’ll be curious what the conservatives, if they stick with me.
One thing I said during my campaign, I get all these people coming up to me and going, “Hey, governor, I agree with you on this issue, we’re behind you.” They were whispering. This is one fault I have of the silent majority. The silent majority’s too silent, and they let the loud minority actually speak and win the election. So I’m starting to wonder, maybe the silent majority is no longer the majority anymore. It’s going to be an interesting issue for our country in the future.
Listen to Warren Cole Smith’s complete conversation with Pat McCrory on the March 10, 2017, edition of Listening In.