Politics & Government

KFC over Bojangles? NC Senator cries ‘fowl’ over fried chicken choice at Barr hearing

What does one of North Carolina’s most popular homegrown businesses have to do with Attorney General William Barr or the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Until Thursday, probably nothing.

But Bojangles’, the popular fried chicken fast-food restaurant that opened its first store in Charlotte in 1977, got a shoutout on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday when Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, was discussing Barr.

A bit of background: Barr, who testified before Tillis and the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, declined to appear before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The committee opened the hearing anyway with an empty chair.

Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, brought a plastic chicken and a bucket of KFC to the hearing — a reference to Barr being too “chicken” to show up. He ate some of the chicken in front of cameras, an image that spread all over social media.

Tillis, in an afternoon speech on the Senate floor, presented a display photo of Cohen eating the chicken as part of a critique of the Democrats’ show of “theater.”

“This guy didn’t have even have good enough sense to have Bojangles’ chicken,” Tillis said in the middle of his speech.

There is a Bojangles’ in the bottom of Union Station, abut a mile from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Here is what Tillis said about the chicken incident:

“What this really boils down to is theater, some of it almost to the level of comedy. Let me give you an example of what I mean. There was a House hearing today. I’m about to put up a picture that actually was on CSPAN, that actually occurred in a house hearing,” Tillis said as part of his floor speech.

“You tell me whether or not the chair of this committee is actually serious about this subject when you’ve got a guy eating fried chicken in place of where they wanted Attorney General Barr to be.

“This guy didn’t have even have good enough sense to have Bojangles’ chicken.

“They’ve got, the chair and others, letting him have that kind of theater in a House committee room. Really? Can you honestly say you’re serious about this or is this like a circus and a political tool because you lost? You wanted the president to be guilty. You wanted to prove he obstructed. I get that. A lot of it was a political exercise.”

Tillis, a former NC House Speaker who won election to the Senate in 2014, is up for re-election in 2020.

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Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.