Right-Wing Media's Failed Attempt To Downplay The Impact Of North Carolina's Anti-LGBTQ Law In Governor's Race

››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

Right-wing media outlets are attempting to deny the impact of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law House Bill 2 (HB 2) in the state’s still too-close-to-call gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper. Mainstream journalists and political scientists have repeatedly pointed to the “politically obvious” costs of the discriminatory HB 2 as a “key issue” in the governor’s race, the outcome of which could mark a potential “watershed” moment for LGBTQ equality. 

North Carolina Governor’s Race Still Remains Too Close To Call

NY Times: North Carolina Governor’s Race Is “Too Close To Call.” The North Carolina governor’s race between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper remains too close to call. Cooper currently leads McCrory by about 5,000 votes, as the state board of elections works to count provisional ballots and examine challenges in 52 counties brought by McCrory. As reported by The New York Times:

Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s Republican governor, trailing by only a few thousand votes in one of the country’s most volatile and expensive races, said early Wednesday that he would not concede the contest until at least Nov. 18, after votes are scrutinized county by county.

“The democratic process is going to proceed in North Carolina for a while,” Mr. McCrory said, on the same night that his Democratic rival, Attorney General Roy Cooper, declared victory. The State Board of Elections reported early Wednesday that, with all of North Carolina’s precincts reporting, Mr. Cooper led Mr. McCrory by fewer than 5,000 votes out of more than 4.6 million that were cast.

The North Carolina contest had been one of only a few governor’s races where existing Republican control was considered to be in jeopardy. Mr. McCrory, battered by his support for a law that curbed transgender rights and the subsequent fallout, struggled, even as Donald J. Trump won the state handily. [The New York Times, 11/9/16; ABC11.com, 11/18/16]

Before Election Day, Journalists Highlighted The Role Of HB 2 In Gubernatorial Race And Larger Significance For LGBTQ Equality. In the weeks leading up to the gubernatorial election, journalists focused on what The New York Times Magazine called the “politically obvious” costs of HB 2, and its potential to be a “critical driver” of voter turnout. In an October 7 opinion column, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank pointed out that since McCrory signed HB 2 in March, his favorability rating has dropped dramatically. Milbank also noted that if McCrory were to lose his re-election bid, it would be the first case of “a prominent official being voted out of office because his anti-gay actions backfired.” [Media Matters, 10/28/16]

Media Point To HB 2 As Tipping Point In Governor’s Race

AP: McCrory Might’ve “Gotten Left Behind” From The Trump Train Due To HB 2. The Associated Press named HB 2 as the “big issue” in the North Carolina gubernatorial race, saying that it could perhaps cause McCrory to be “left behind” from the “Trump train” that otherwise roared through southern states. The law prevents localities in the state from passing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and bans transgender people from using public restrooms that do not match the gender listed on their birth certificate. From the AP:

North Carolina's governor may have gotten left behind as the Trump train roared through the South.

With some ballots yet to be counted two days after Election Day, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is trailing his Democratic challenger by about 5,000 votes.

The big issue in the race was North Carolina's LGBT law - the measure requiring transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. The law has triggered boycotts and other protests.

McCrory signed it and has strongly defended it. His opponent, state Attorney General Roy Cooper, has called for its repeal. [The Associated Press, 11/10/16]

Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi: HB 2 “Is Considered Key To The Outcome” Of Race And May Drive McCrory “Out Of Office.” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi pointed out that McCrory’s support for the discriminatory HB 2 may drive him out of office, calling it “key to the outcome” of the gubernatorial race:

Transgender rights became a hot national topic after North Carolina passed a bill — known as HB2 — requiring people to use bathrooms that matched the gender specified on their birth certificate. Shortly after that, the Obama administration issued transgender bathroom guidelines that would cut off federal aid to school districts that denied access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on gender choice. Nearly two dozen states filed a lawsuit challenging that directive, and a federal judge blocked it.

Ironically, the issue may drive North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, out of office. With provisional ballots still to be counted, Democrat Roy Cooper declared victory over McCrory, whose support for HB2 is considered key to the outcome. [The Boston Globe, 11/16/16]

Veteran North Carolina Reporter: “HB 2 Anger” Motivated Split-Ticket Trump Voters Against McCrory. Long-time North Carolina investigative reporter Joe Killian cited political science expert Michael Bitzer’s analysis that HB 2 was a motivating factor for split-ticket voters in a state carried by President-elect Donald Trump. Killian noted that McCrory took “62,902 fewer votes than his party’s presidential candidate statewide,” suggesting that “a number of Trump voters chose Cooper over McCrory”:

“The split-ticket voter is apparently live and well here in North Carolina,” said Dr. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science and history at Catawba College.

In an interview with Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon, Bitzer pointed to a series of Democratic wins in the state – most prominently Attorney General Roy Cooper, who finished election night about 5,000 votes ahead of Gov. Pat McCrory in the gubernatorial race.

Democrat Josh Stein also beat out Republican Buck Newton for Attorney General. Newton, a central proponent of the controversial House Bill 2, was one of a number of Republicans who struggled to overcome opposition to the law.

[...]

Though many assumed a Trump win would carry McCrory, the governor took 62,902 fewer votes than his party’s presidential candidate statewide. That would suggest a number of Trump voters chose Cooper over McCrory – which is borne out in the county breakdowns as well. Cooper took all of the counties Clinton did but also won Granville, Jackson, Nash and New Hanover counties – all ground Trump took in the presidential contest. [The Chronicle, 11/17/16]

News & Observer Columnist: McCrory “Damaged His Prospects” By Becoming The “Public Face” Of HB 2. Rob Christensen, a columnist for The News & Observer, wrote that Cooper’s potential win could mark a “break in the conservative revolution” in North Carolina. Christensen concluded that McCrory “damaged his prospects” with HB 2, and that the economic fallout from boycotts in response to the discriminatory law “undermined the McCrory re-election campaign narrative that the economy had improved under his watch”:

If Cooper ends up defeating McCrory, it will in some ways be rather remarkable. McCrory ran during a year when the economy had rebounded from the recession, and during a very good Republican year led by a strong showing by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. McCrory would be the first North Carolina governor defeated for re-election.

But McCrory damaged his prospects when he became the public face of House Bill 2, which was passed earlier this year by the legislature. HB2 eliminated Charlotte anti-discrimination protections for gays and transgender people and requires that people in government facilities use only restrooms and changing facilities that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. The law also prevents N.C. municipalities from enacting anti-discriminatory laws.

The law prompted a national boycott against the state, which Forbes Magazine estimated has cost the state at least $630 million since March. [The News & Observer, 11/11/16]

Right-Wing Media Downplayed Or Entirely Ignored The Cost Of Discriminatory Anti-LGBTQ Law In Election

Daily Signal: Because LGBTQ Groups Campaigned Against HB 2, Close Governor’s Race Shows Anti-Transgender Laws “Stand A Chance.” While acknowledging that “McCrory should have had the election in the bag,” The Daily Signal -- which is published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation -- argued that “not everyone’s buying” the consensus that HB 2 negatively impacted McCrory’s run. The article quoted North Carolina anti-LGBTQ activist and major HB 2 proponent Tami Fitzgerald to distort the impact of LGBTQ equality group the Human Rights Campaign’s active campaign against HB 2:

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the conservative North Carolina Values Coalition, has been on the ground fighting in favor of HB 2 since it passed in March. She, too, said efforts of groups such as the Human Rights Campaign were less than effective.

“The people of North Carolina have already spoken through the unusually big wins that the Legislature obtained last night,” Fitzgerald said in a phone call. “They have huge, veto-proof majorities that the Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina were not able to take away through this false narrative they’ve created on House Bill 2.”

On the campaign trail, Republicans weren’t shy in promoting the most socially conservative national platform in history.

[...]

While the bathroom law may have sunk McCrory’s re-election bid, those results don’t serve as a referendum on the measure itself, Fitzgerald said.

“Whichever way the governor’s race goes,” she said, “states could interpret this as a clear signal that you can stand up to the Human Rights Campaign and win.” [The Daily Signal, 11/10/16]

The Federalist: “Selling Out Women To Transgender Bullies Helped Elect Donald Trump.” An article in the right-wing outlet The Federalist baselessly argued that “the betrayal” of Democrats supporting transgender equality “helped Donald Trump win.” The article pushed the debunked myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people endanger women’s safety, claiming that this “betrayal” was a supposedly “pivotal aspect” of the election:

I believe one of the reasons some women voted for Trump—despite the fact that, according to Chira, 89 percent of those who did so were upset by his treatment of women—is very simple. The Democratic Party betrayed women by attempting to supplant sex with gender. Chira entitled her article, “The Myth of Female Solidarity,” but the real myth is that the Democratic Party stood in solidarity with women. It didn’t.

[...]

Interestingly, this pivotal aspect of the race may not go down in the history books at all, because apparently it’s impolite to say it openly. Today I tried to comment on the Chira article, pointing out that because the Democratic Party sold out women on this issue, a number of women decided to pick up and go to the polls and vote for a man whose treatment of women really bothered them. The New York Times refused to publish the comment. It seems that the critical role this issue played in the 2016 election may be purposefully obscured by those whose interests might be compromised if it were acknowledged.

So let’s acknowledge it here at The Federalist: Women—even liberal women—now feel the Democratic Party has sold them out in favor of transsexuals. It’s time for the leadership of both parties to take stock of what role this sense of betrayal played in Clinton’s poorer-than-expected showing among women. After all, what profiteth it a political party to gain the transsexual vote but lose the women’s vote? [The Federalist, 11/15/16]

Daily Caller: Democrats Lost By “Forc[ing] Your Agenda Down The Throats Of Americans … Especially Concerning Transgender Issues.” In an opinion article in the right-wing Daily Caller, Antonin Scalia Law School student Thomas Wheatley argued that one of the reasons for Republican victory in the general election was that Democrats had “forced [their] agenda down the throats of Americans,” singling out “transgender issues” as an area where Democrats had used “the federal courts as a bludgeon to force ideological compliance.” The article made no mention of the North Carolina’s governor race or HB 2: 

You forced your agenda down the throats of Americans using undemocratic means, especially concerning transgender issues. According to a May 2016 CBS/New York Times poll, Americans were largely split on whether one’s gender identity should dictate bathroom usage. Despite the issue being clearly ripe for political debate in lawmaking bodies, you thought it appropriate to use the presidency and the federal courts as a bludgeon to force ideological compliance. [The Daily Caller, 11/11/16

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