Leading Republican politicians in North Carolina had little to say Friday about a GOP congressman’s statement that Charlotte protesters “hate white people.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose district includes Charlotte, made the statement on a BBC-TV news program Thursday when asked to describe the “grievance” of the protesters.
“The grievance in their minds – the animus, the anger – they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” Pittenger said. He then criticized people who receive welfare. “It is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage, so they can’t be all they’re capable of being.”
He later apologized, saying his answer “doesn’t reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV.”
The News & Observer asked spokespeople for Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis if they agreed with Pittenger’s original statement. None of them responded to multiple requests for comment by Friday evening.
N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse also did not provide a formal response to Pittenger’s comment, but he pointed out to a reporter that the congressman had apologized.
State Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville appears to be the only Republican lawmaker who condemned the Pittenger remark. He criticized the congressman’s statement on Twitter and said he was “afraid it wasn’t a misquote.”
On Friday, Pittenger’s Democratic opponent, Christian Cano, issued a statement saying the congressman showed “bigotry.”
“His comments by no means are representative of where our district stands or where anyone in our state or country stands,” Cano said. “We are simply stunned that a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives could say something so despicable. We condemn his words and the bigotry they represent.”
Cano offered his own take on why Charlotte is seeing protests: “The frustration of our African-American community has reached a tipping point, and rightfully so. Again and again we see videos and read news headlines about unarmed African-Americans being shot and killed by the police, and this is not something we can continue to tolerate. It has to stop. We need to first heal from the wounds of this incident, get the facts, and begin to bring our neighbors back together. The only way to affect positive change is through peaceful yet persistent means.”
While Pittenger’s comments could help Cano, the Democrat’s campaign remains an uphill battle: The 9th Congressional District is drawn to favor a Republican candidate, and Cano had raised just $29,000 by June 30. Pittenger has raised nearly $900,000 this election cycle.