North Carolina’s Republican governor seemed to be taking a page out of Donald Trump’s book on Monday when he defended a controversial law stripping power away from his Democratic successor.
House Bill 17 contains several measures that limit the executive authority of incoming governor Roy Cooper, who defeated incumbent Pat McCrory by about 10,000 votes in November. McCrory signed it into law on Monday, two weeks before Cooper takes office.
The bill was one of several Republican-backed measures pushed through the state’s General Assembly during a surprise, last-minute lawmaking session last week. Democrats derided the moves as a partisan “power grab,” and hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the special session in Raleigh’s legislative building, leading to dozens of arrests.
But in a statement, McCrory attempted to discredit the bill’s opponents with a familiar trope — by suggesting last week’s protesters were paid to be there.
“I have come to realise that current changes to executive authority in House Bill 17 have been greatly exaggerated by misleading TV ads, paid protesters and state and national media outlets,” McCrory said in the statement.
— Michael Hyland (@MichaelWNCN) December 19, 2016
McCrory’s assertion, for which he provided no evidence, mirrored comments from North Carolina state Rep. Michael Speciale, who last week also claimed that protesters in Raleigh were “likely paid.”
“A group of malcontent thugs who are likely paid and bussed in to disrupt the business of those who represent the people detracts from the ability of the peoples’ government to effectively do their jobs,” Speciale said in a Facebook post.
Such claims could signal that North Carolina lawmakers are taking cues from President-elect Trump. Three days after winning the presidential election in November, Trump derided the “professional protesters” demonstrating against him in cities across the country.
“Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Trump said on Twitter. Trump eventually walked back his comments.
A false story from March purporting to quote a paid protester was tweeted in March by Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Corey Lewandowski, and the story was recirculated after the election. However, the supposed protester quoted in the article turned out to be fictional, and the author admitted to making up the story in an interview with The Washington Post.
Trump also claimed that the protests that forced him to cancel a March rally in Chicago were “professionally done.” A pair of Democratic operatives in October appeared to discuss paying people to incite violence at Trump’s rallies. The Democratic organisations said the actions discussed on the video did not appear to have ever taken place.
Gretchen Garrett, one of the North Carolina protesters who was arrested on Friday, told North Carolina’s The Independent Weekly she was protesting because “this wasn’t what the founders had in mind.”
“It’s insulting to think that people who live in the state don’t care about it enough to come down here,” she said.
House Bill 17’s limits on Cooper’s power are wide-reaching: It requires the Republican-dominated General Assembly to approve his Cabinet picks, dramatically reduces the number of people he can hire and fire at will, and revokes his ability to appoint members to the University of North Carolina board of trustees.
Other bills passed during the last-minute session will effectively give Republicans control of the state elections board in election years and require state Supreme Court candidates to be listed alongside their party identification.