Charlotte Observer

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  • “It’s Time For Us To Be Afraid Again”: Charlotte Observer Investigates Anti-LGBT Discrimination In North Carolina After HB 2

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    A Charlotte Observer special report investigated the extent of anti-LGBT discrimination in North Carolina in the wake of the state’s discriminatory House Bill 2 (HB 2), finding that LGBT people have “for years been subjected to bullying, harassment, discrimination and sometimes violence” and that HB 2 “heightens fear in North Carolina.” The piece included interviews with scholars and advocates who say the law, which was passed in March, “has given people permission to hate.”

    As the controversy over North Carolina’s HB 2 continues, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has defended the law -- which, among other things, prohibits localities from enacting nondiscrimination provisions on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity -- by saying that he isn’t aware of any examples of anti-LGBT discrimination in North Carolina.

    But the major special report from The Charlotte Observer found 59 people in 50 counties who had been subject to verbal slurs, threats, and even physical assaults because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The paper included reports on each person, an interactive map and videos -- which demonstrate that while McCrory and HB 2 proponents say the law “protects public safety,” the LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence “say otherwise.”

    In addition to noting years of discrimination against LGBT people, the Observer reported that since the passage of HB 2, “transgender residents said they feel as if they’re being watched.” The paper also spoke with two women -- neither of whom is transgender -- who also reported “being harassed at a restroom” due to their gender expression. The Observer also pointed out that 14 years of FBI crime statistics show that LGBT people were “targeted at higher rates than any other minority group in the country.”  

    From the October 12 Charlotte Observer special report

    Public records and interviews across the state suggest that targeting of LGBTQ residents is so commonplace that many take it for granted as a sad – and sometimes dangerous – fact of their lives.


    Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis who is an expert on anti-gay violence, said HB2 sends a broad symbolic message: “It’s conveying to people in the state who are LGBT that they are not full citizens.”

    The new law, scholars and advocates believe, has given people permission to hate.

    Three weeks after HB2 was adopted, someone responded to a sign critical of the governor by leaving a note on an Asheville woman’s car: “Burn in Hell, nasty faggot! I ♥ HB2!' "

    The next day in Charlotte, instead of tipping a waitress who is lesbian, a group of female customers at Zada Jane’s in Plaza Midwood left a Bible verse, Leviticus 20:13, which holds that sex between two men is “an abomination” punishable by death.


    Said Josh Burford, assistant director for sexual and gender diversity at UNC Charlotte: “It’s time for us to be afraid again.”

  • Report: North Carolina Gov. Held Fake Q & A, Ducked Questions About Discriminatory HB 2

    Charlotte Observer Reports That Staff Of Gov. Pat McCrory “Planted Questions,” Blocked Inquiries About Anti-LGBT Law

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Gov. Pat McCrory held a “business-group” lunch on September 15 that was supposed to include questions and answers from the media or audience. Instead, McCrory’s campaign staff were reportedly responsible for three “softball” questions that were falsely attributed to the Charlotte Observer, and then refused to allow the Observer’s real questions about HB 2.

    In the immediate aftermath of the NCAA and ACC pulling events out of North Carolina because of HB 2, Gov. McCrory held a business lunch on September 15 where he purportedly answered questions submitted from media outlets attending the event. But according to a Charlotte Observer editorial page editor who attended the lunch, questions at the event actually came "from the governor's own staff," though the event moderator "portrayed [them] as coming from the audience and the Observer." The crowd at the event "was never told that many of them actually came from McCrory’s campaign.”

    From the September 17 column:

    With Hurricane HB2 blowing North Carolina’s doors off, Gov. Pat McCrory took questions in Charlotte last week – from himself.

    McCrory’s staff planted questions at a lunch event in South Park on Thursday with the crowd under the impression that they were coming from the media or the audience. The moderator, a volunteer from the lunch audience, introduced three questions by saying they were from the Charlotte Observer.

    He apologized to me afterward, saying it was his understanding all the questions on one of his sheets were from the Observer. In fact, they were from the governor’s own staff, an event organizer said.

    Speakers at Hood Hargett Breakfast Club events routinely take questions from the floor. McCrory required that all questions be submitted in advance in writing.

    When the moderator asked how to get started, McCrory said, “Anything you like. No filter here.” Sure, who needs a filter when you posed the questions yourself?

    When I tried to ask McCrory a question, the filter went up. “We’ve got three Observer questions answered already. I think you guys dominate the news enough.”

    Of course, those weren’t Observer questions. They were softballs from his staff about what he wanted to do with his next term; how he wanted to reduce the state’s rape kit backlog; and how the state crime lab performed under McCrory’s opponent, Roy Cooper.

    When the event was over, McCrory did not meet with the throng of reporters who were there. He ducked out a side door and down a hall that led to a back exit. I followed him to try to ask him about HB2, but his staff blocked me.

  • Charlotte Observer: So-Called HB 2 "Compromise" Is A "Bad Deal" For City And LGBT People

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Charlotte Observer editorial board blasted the so-called “compromise” proposed by North Carolina Republicans, which would repeal the state’s discriminatory House Bill 2 (HB 2) in return for the city of Charlotte dropping its LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The board slammed the supposed “reset” as a “dismissive” and “condescending” proposal that is a “bad deal” for both the city of Charlotte and LGBT people.

    On September 16, the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) issued a statement indicating that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory had assured NCRLA that if the Charlotte City Council were to repeal the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, the general assembly would call a special session to repeal HB 2 -- which, among other measures, requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate. McCrory’s proposal comes in the wake of the NBA, NCAA, and ACC pulling championship games out of the state in response to the anti-LGBT bathroom bill. Experts have estimated that the economic cost from the loss of sports-related business alone could range from $100 million to $200 million.

    On September 18, the Charlotte Observer editorial board slammed McCrory’s proposed “compromise” as a “bad deal for the city, and more importantly, for members of the LGBT community.” The board criticized the “dismissive tone” Republicans took, noting that they overlooked the “at least 200 U.S. cities and counties” that preceded Charlotte in adopting similar ordinances. They also called out the “false notion” that HB 2 “provides for safer bathrooms.” Asking if the possibility of getting back the NCAA and ACC tournaments would be worth “selling out the LGBT community,” the board wrote, “We believe the answer is no.”

    From the September 18 edition of the Charlotte Observer

    Gov. Pat McCrory and some N.C. lawmakers are encouraging the Charlotte City Council to make a compromise that might result in the repeal of HB2. It’s a bad deal for the city, and more importantly, for members of the LGBT community who would lose their best chance at protections from discrimination. Council members should not turn their backs on those residents now.


    As with a similar compromise offer back in May, council members are being asked to trust the legislature to follow through on its end of the deal. Here’s a hint about how that might go: In a condescending statement Saturday, House Speaker Tim Moore said that if Charlotte “fully and unconditionally” repealed its ordinance, “then I believe we have something to discuss.”

    It’s a dismissive tone that overlooks an important bit of history:

    In passing its non-discrimination ordinance in February, Charlotte followed the lead of at least 200 U.S. cities and counties. Charlotte’s ordinance, which included a provision addressing gender identity and bathrooms in public accommodations, was not groundbreaking. It’s what progressive cities do to protect their residents.


    What would Charlotte get from the “reset”? It might get the ACC Football Championship game back, for starters. The NBA also might bring its All-Star weekend back to the city in 2019 if HB2 were out of the way. Both possibilities, however, are far from certain.

    But Charlotte also would be left without an ordinance that council members believed was important for the safety and dignity of the LGBT community. That ordinance was more than symbolic. It was designed to protect residents from very real discrimination.

    Let’s be clear: House and Senate leaders have given zero indication they want Charlotte to have those LGBT protections, now or at any point. It’s worth noting that in his Saturday statement, House Speaker Moore again celebrated the false notion that HB2 provides for safer bathrooms and showers.


    Yes, a “reset” has an appealing ring to it. But it would be a step backward, both symbolically and practically. Would Charlotte be any closer to the protections it wants to offer? No. Would it get a football and basketball event back? Maybe.

    Are those events worth selling out the LGBT community?

    We believe the answer is no.

  • After NCAA, ACC Pull-Out Of North Carolina, Editorials Slam Gov. McCrory For Continued Support Of HB 2

    ››› ››› LUKE BATEMAN

    North Carolina editorial boards are slamming Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to stand by his state’s discriminatory House Bill 2 (HB 2) following the NCAA and ACC’s recent plan to remove championship games from North Carolina. Newspaper editorial boards are highlighting the “casualty count” caused by backlash the “hateful” and “disastrous” law has caused and saying it needs to be repealed. 

  • Charlotte Observer Calls Out North Carolina GOP For Attacking Tim Kaine’s Pin Honoring His Marine Son

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Charlotte Observer called out North Carolina's Republican party after its official Twitter account tweeted that it was “shameful” for Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D-VA) to wear a “Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American Flag.”

    Throughout the convention, conservative media have tried to paint Democrats as unpatriotic by inaccurately accusing them of failing to displaying American flags on the stage and for not mentioning ISIS on the opening night of the convention. Right-wing media also specifically targeted Kaine's use of Spanish during his speech, mocking his accent and questioning if he was actually fluent in the language.

    The July 28 Observer article noted that the North Carolina GOP inaccurately tweeted that Kaine was wearing a “Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag.” However, WNYT reporter Ben Amey was quick to point out that Kaine’s pin was a “Blue Star Service pin for his son, who’s a deployed Marine.” The North Carolina GOP account replied, thanking Amey “for letting us correct our mistake,” but failed to apologize to Kaine for the error. From The Charlotte Observer:

    When Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night, the North Carolina GOP thought it quickly spotted something wrong.

    “[Tim Kaine] wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag,” the state party tweeted as he was speaking. “Shameful.”

    There was one problem: Kaine’s pin, which had a single blue star on a white background bordered with red, wasn’t the flag of Honduras, where he spent a year as a missionary decades ago. It was the symbol for Blue Star Families, or those with members serving in the military.

    Ben Amey, a reporter for WNYT, caught their mistake:

    Kaine’s son, 1st Lt. Nathaniel Kaine, is an infantry officer serving with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, who deployed to Eastern Europe shortly after his father was named Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

    In his first public speech after being named her vice presidential candidate, Kaine had referenced his pride for his son and the impending deployment.

    “He is a proud Marine, and in just a few days he’s deploying to Europe to uphold America’s commitment to our NATO allies,” Kaine said in the speech. “For me, this drives home the stakes in this election.”

    The person behind the Twitter account thanked Amey for alerting them to the mistake in a reply after deleting the tweet, but did not apologize to Kaine for the error. 

  • North Carolina Newspapers Call Out Gov. McCrory For Defending Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Bill”

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    North Carolina editorial boards are criticizing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) after he filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in defense of the state’s anti-LGBT bathroom bill. McCrory claimed that the federal government had no authority to demand state legislators rework the law so it isn't discriminatory, and state newspapers denounced the governor for “defending the indefensible” and engaging in a “disturbing” legal battle that “won’t end well” for North Carolina.

  • Media Document The Economic Cost Of North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law

    Republican NC Officials Defend Discriminatory Law Despite Increasing Evidence Of Imminent Economic Consequences


    North Carolina’s Republican administration continues to defend its anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2 (HB 2), but media outlets have documented the economic harm the law has done to the state, including backlash from the business community and the potential loss of federal funds. 

  • North Carolina Editorials Slam Republican "Recklessness And Foolishness" In Rolling Back LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    North Carolina newspaper editorials roundly condemned the Republican-led North Carolina legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) for dismantling LGBT nondiscrimination protections, chastising state Republicans for their "legislative incompetence," "recklessness and foolishness," and "unwarranted intrusion" into local nondiscrimination ordinances.

  • "Do Your Job": Editorials Implore Senate GOP To Rise Above "Obstruction" And Act On Merrick Garland


    Newspaper editorials roundly urged Senate Republicans to stop obstructing the nomination process of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The editorials chastised "obstructionist" senators for their "stupendous show of political malfeasance" and warned that the obstruction is "out of sync with the nation's best interests," among other criticisms.

  • State Newspapers Highlight Dangers Of Green-Lighting Offshoring Drilling In The Atlantic Ocean


    In its draft leasing plan that will set the boundaries for oil development in federal waters from 2017 to 2022, the Obama Administration proposed allowing offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast between Virginia and Georgia. Newspapers in the states that would be impacted by this plan have published articles and editorials highlighting local opposition and describing the economic and environmental risks associated with offshore drilling. As the administration approaches a final decision on offshore drilling, these concerns identified by state media outlets should inform national media coverage in the days and weeks ahead.

  • North Carolina Newspapers Mostly Silent As ALEC And Koch Brothers Rewrite History

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    North Carolina newspapers have largely missed the connection between a Koch-funded education non-profit organization contracted to help shape new statewide history curriculum materials, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative model legislation mill that wrote the bill mandating the new course work.

    In 2011, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill known as the "Founding Principles Act," which would require high school students to pass a course on "Founding Philosophy and the Founding Principles of government for a free people." The bill was generated as a piece of model legislation by ALEC, a conservative group that brings corporations and politicians together to vote on and construct bills to be used in multiple states. According to the Huffington Post, North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction, which has been tasked with drawing up the curriculum required by the Founding Principles Act, proposed on December 3 to "'highly recommend' social studies material from the Bill of Rights Institute," an organization which "receives funding from the billionaire Koch brothers."

    Of the four largest papers in North Carolina (by circulation), The Charlotte Observer, the News & Record, The News and Observer, and the Winston-Salem Journal, only the Raleigh-based News and Observer produced an original report on the connection between the Koch brothers and the new history curriculum. Its story was reprinted by The Charlotte Observer  and the Winston Salem-Journalthe latter of which added quotes from local teachers. The News & Record only ran a short Associated Press story that referenced the original News & Observer article.

    As the News and Observer reported, the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) was contracted to help create course material. What all of the state papers missed, however, was the BRI's own connection with ALEC. According the Center for Media and Democracy, BRI was an ALEC member and part of ALEC's Education Task Force. Documents obtained by The Guardian show that BRI's ALEC membership lapsed in April 2013, though the institute was listed as providing research materials for the new curriculum in February of the same year.

  • Are Newspapers In Battleground States Covering Dark Money's Unprecedented Influence On The Midterms?

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    A Media Matters analysis of newspaper coverage of anonymously donated "dark money" in three battleground states shows that secret money's growing influence on elections has not necessarily translated to more awareness in the media. While some news outlets are reporting on the influence this new influx of money is having on politics, others are merely providing a platform for dark-money groups to further their causes.

    The term "dark money" is used to describe organizations that do not disclose the identity of at least some of their donors and that use money from these anonymous donors to fund political ads, mailers, and staff to try to influence voters and policymakers. Even spending by these groups may be shielded from disclosure, depending on the type of ad they run. Dark-money groups focus heavily on specific policy outcomes and try to connect candidates to their desired outcome through advertising. These groups protect their donors by never officially endorsing a candidate and by limiting their political activity. This allows them to be classified as "social welfare" organizations under the tax code, which means they do not have to disclose their funding.

    Spending by dark-money groups in this election cycle is nearing the $200 million mark and is expected to spiral even higher before Election Day. Much of the spending by these groups is focused on influencing Senate races in key states. Media Matters reviewed newspaper coverage in three states with competitive Senate races (North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Colorado) to see how they are covering this influx of anonymous outside funding. The results show large discrepancies in the quality of the coverage of dark-money groups, with some papers doing a significantly better job than others.

    Of the three states analyzed, North Carolina's newspapers provided the best overall coverage of dark money influence. North Carolina's Senate race is expected to set a new record for outside spending, with $55.7 million spent so far, even without counting the non-disclosed money. The Raleigh News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer, the two largest papers by circulation in the state, went beyond reporting the existence of the groups and attempted to report which outside groups were spending money on which ads -- something these groups often fail to do themselves. The North Carolina papers also reported on how dark-money groups such as the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) are using their influence to lobby for specific policies, such as the group's successful campaign to block a special legislative session on economic development.

    The Colorado newspapers' coverage of dark-money activity proved to be far less extensive than that of the North Carolina newspapers, producing just 13 stories since July 15. Colorado's Senate race is also poised to break records in outside spending. The Denver Post's coverage did not go into depth the same way North Carolina's newspaper coverage did, but it did highlight efforts by groups like Americans for Prosperity to influence voters with their door-to-door outreach.

    Colorado's second biggest paper, The Gazette of Colorado Springs, produced few reports on dark money during the period analyzed. However, a partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News produced a report that covered many of the complexities of dark money. The article discussed outside spending by both conservative and liberal groups and explained the difficulty of tracking dark-money donors and the impact of their donations:

    "Nonprofit political groups do not have to disclose donors," Viveka Novak, editorial and communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics said. "So we could only identify organizations that filed 990s (nonprofit tax forms) and that wouldn't include individuals or corporations, so there are still a lot of donors or donations no one would know about."

    [Sheldon] Adelson, the Koch Brothers and many other politically active billionaires and multimillionaires across the political spectrum are able to maintain privacy and give endless funds after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which held that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

    "TV ads are number one, the overwhelming most important tool in winning one of these campaigns," Ciruli said.

    In New Hampshire, dark-money groups have spent at least $4.3 million in the Senate race -- overwhelmingly in support of the Republican candidate, as of September 8. This subject has seen poor coverage from the state's largest newspaper, The Union Leader. While the paper mentioned dark-money groups in 11 articles, and another five articles mentioned the groups and specific policies, the paper's coverage mostly provided a platform for groups like AFP to spread their message and did not explain the groups' attempt to influence policy decisions or the Senate race. For example, in a September 30 article, the paper gave AFP state director Greg Moore a platform to attack the state's budget situation and blast the Affordable Care Act, something the group has also done in its advertising against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH):

    Greg Moore, state director for Americans for Prosperity, blamed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act for much of the shortfall in the two-year budget plan.

    "The legislature gave the administration $57 million from the last, fiscally-responsible budget to spend, and expected that surplus to last for the entire, two-year budget, but Governor Hassan took her eyes off the ball and spent even more," Moore said. "Keeping within the budget takes strong executive action and discipline, but we aren't seeing that right now in Concord."

    While the use of dark-money groups is not one sided, conservative groups are far more likely to use this route to shield wealthy donors and ensuing spending. As the Brennan Center for Justice noted, in this election cycle, "Overall, 80 percent of pro-Republican nonparty expenditures came from dark money groups, compared to 32 percent of outside spending favoring Democrats." This is not a new trend for conservative supporters, as spending by nondisclosing groups has clearly favored Republican candidates over the past four election cycles:

    The problem with dark-money groups, as the Brennan Center's analysis noted, is that "the lack of transparency in the majority of outside spending in competitive races leaves voters unable to evaluate the political messages they see" and that these groups "threaten to make a mockery of contribution limits and their prophylactic effect on corruption and influence buying." This sentiment was echoed by University of Louisville political science professor Laurie A. Rhodebeck in the Los Angeles Times, saying that the flood of dark-money spending is "detrimental to voters because if they don't know who is behind the money, they can't judge whether to trust the ad or not."

    The scale of the problem is considerable. The Boston Globe reported on October 22 (emphasis added):

    The impact is visible online and on television. One of every 16 television ads in US Senate races from January 2013 through August were paid for by a single group, Americans for Prosperity, according to the nonpartisan investigative Center for Public Integrity and advertising tracking service Kantar Media. AFP serves as a nonprofit advocacy arm of the political network backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

    The Brennan Center found that during the 2012 election, "three-quarters of outside expenditures were made after September 30, and one-half were made in just the last three weeks of the campaign." This suggests that newspapers in these key battleground states still have the opportunity to report on how dark money is influencing their elections.


    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of the top newspapers (by circulation) in three highly contested states. The papers analyzed were North Carolina's News and Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer, New Hampshire's Union Leader, and Colorado's Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette. The Concord Monitor, New Hampshire's second largest newspaper, was excluded because it is not in the Nexis database. The search term "((outside or independent or nondisclos! or non-disclos! or undisclosed or dark or secretive) w/5 (money or expenditure or spending)) or (Americans for Prosperity) or (Crossroads GPS) or (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) or (Patriot Majority USA) or (Concerned Veterans for America) or (Freedom Partners)" was used to search for reports on dark-money spending from July 15, 2014, when the Federal Election Commission's quarterly report was released, through October 24. While dark-money groups do not have to disclose all spending to FEC, as other groups do, this date aligns closely with the increase in outside spending.

  • Study: Top NC Newspapers Misses Coverage Gap In Reporting On Medicaid Expansion


    North Carolina's three largest papers by circulation gave little news coverage to the Medicaid coverage gap, or the number of North Carolinians who make too much for Medicaid without expansion but not enough for affordable coverage on the exchanges, mentioning the gap in only 8 out of 80 news articles since the end of the previous legislative session. 28 percent of uninsured North Carolinans would fall into the gap including 54 percent of people of color.