Gov. Pat McCrory backed away from a statement that left the impression he frequently waded into crowds of protesters angry with Republican legislative initiatives, saying Friday he often interacts while walking near the demonstrations though he doesn't mingle among his critics.
McCrory created the impression during an interview with The Wilson Times on Wednesday, when he was asked when he would meet with people gathering for near-weekly demonstrations opposing GOP polices. The governor indicated he'd already done so.
"I go out in the crowd all of the time. Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful. They did not represent the majority of people who call themselves moral by cussing me out, but, you know, that's the way things go sometimes," McCrory told the newspaper (http://bit.ly/12kloPj).
On Friday, McCrory and his top spokeswoman said the governor hears from critics while he walks around the state's government complex in Raleigh.
"Every day he walks to and from work, to meetings in government buildings, and throughout the city of Raleigh. When possible the governor will stop and chat with the people," spokeswoman Kim Genardo said. "These meetings, these discussions, or chats, or brief hellos, or cussing out, are happening when he's walking to or from places. Whether that's on the periphery of the protest, from the mansion, from people outside his fence protesting - wherever it is in Raleigh."
During a visit to New Bern, McCrory said much the same thing - that he collects criticism during forays on foot and not from wading into the demonstrations that have gone on for nearly three months. The protests, dubbed "Moral Monday" by the organizers, are held on a lawn-covered courtyard called Halifax Mall.
"I'm very accessible and I enjoy the interaction with groups of people when I'm walking to and from work and that's often when I saw these people, including protesters," McCrory told News 14 Carolina. "I never stated on your News 14 that I was actually involved on the green there, I haven't done that."
One person walking to Monday evening's protest said he heard McCrory being cussed, though it didn't come from the crowd protesting GOP initiatives that include rejecting Medicaid expansion to the working poor, slashing unemployment benefits, and cutting public education jobs.
Randy Blew, 48, of Raleigh, said he was walking on the sidewalk beside the Legislative Building around 6 p.m. Monday, when he heard someone behind him shout an expletive and either the word governor or McCrory's name. Blew said he turned around and noticed McCrory among a small group of men he hadn't recognized seconds earlier as they'd walked in front of the Legislative Building.
A passing man on a bicycle was the apparent source of a second shouted curse aimed at McCrory, who was about 40 feet away and about a quarter-mile away from the scene of Monday's demonstration, where Blew said he was headed.
"It definitely was not happening in a group of people. It's not like there was a whole big crowd standing around or anything," he said.
McCrory has said he had no desire to meet with protesters. The head of the state chapter of the NAACP, which organized the protests, said McCrory should.
"We have not seen nor heard from the governor. And his description of Moral Monday once again reveals he hasn't seen or chosen to really listen to us but instead continues to be dismissive of the very citizens he was elected to serve," said the Rev. William Barber. "While we don't condone cursing him out personally, his policies must be passionately challenged because they are hurting the lives of real people."