Opinion: Pat McCrory In the Fact-Free Refuge of Radio
The governor picks a friendly venue to shovel some nonsense
The governor was on the radio the other day, defending House Bill 2. It was his standard defense, with scoopfuls of “common sense” and “an expectation of privacy,” garnished with Pat McCrory’s specialty, playing victim. “The Charlotte Observer crucifies me, compares me to George Wallace and stuff,” he actually said, “which—that’s an insult!”
McCrory compared the criticism he and legislators have caught over the last six weeks with—brace yourself—Ingsoc oppression in 1984. This was no Room 101 but a friendly Charlotte studio, manned not by the Thought Police but by good ol’ JohnBoy & Billy. “We’re gonna continue our conversation with the most beat-up man in America, Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory, in the studio this morning,” JohnBoy said after one commercial break. “Pat, you’ve got a lot of us behind you.”
McCrory picked the right venue. “The Big Show” isn’t corrosive right-wing talk in the vein of the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage AM shows. But it is syndicated across the FM dial in 20 Southeastern and Midwestern states, and mixed with the NASCAR talk and Blue Collar Comedy Tour humor is a healthy dose of conservative politics. JohnBoy and Billy know their demographic; so, clearly, does the governor.
But something else is at play here, as when McCrory mentioned offhandedly that Bruce Springsteen, who cancelled a Greensboro concert over HB2 last month, had sold only 8,000 tickets—a claim that turned out to be false. (The governor’s office later apologized for his misstatement in a typically sorry-not sorry way: “It’s too bad Bruce Springsteen actually canceled on nearly 15,000 people at the last minute.”) It’s not just that McCrory was wrong. It’s that his blunder was unnecessary, just plain stupid. Claiming that Springsteen—famous for selling out arenas wherever he goes—was preparing to play a half-full Greensboro Coliseum didn’t help McCrory’s case. It actually undermined his argument that Bruce was cheating his fans. So why even say it? Why pull that out of your keister for listeners in 20 states?
Maybe it’s because a lot of the same people are conditioned to this kind of indifference to fact pouring out of their car speakers. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt talked this week on MSNBC about right-wing talk radio’s setting of the table for Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president. But Schmidt spoke about “tone.” Never mind that, what about content? It’s garbage, and always has been, from that moment in the late 1980s when Limbaugh went national. These are the people who even before the Internet brought you Vince Foster-gate and crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree, content for a niche market that hadn’t even fully realized itself yet—tolerating, yearning for, “information” unencumbered by a tether to fact.
Trump has capitalized on that climate. To a lesser extent, so has McCrory, who’s made it a habit as governor of talking out of orifices other than his mouth. So he knew he was on safe ground with JohnBoy, who soothed the governor with some homespun word salad: “A lot of people are really smarter, that just because it’s in the newspaper, or you got the media telling you all this stuff, just, you know, hang in there, buddy, that’s all you can do.”
“I mean, you’ve known us for 30 years,” chimed in Billy. “How sad is it you come to us for common sense?”