Opinion

Hurricane Florence: Is it too soon for Gov. Roy Cooper to be patting his own back?

NC Governor Roy Cooper, left, speaks with Bulasi Kyungu at a shelter in Chapel Hill.
NC Governor Roy Cooper, left, speaks with Bulasi Kyungu at a shelter in Chapel Hill. ctoth@newsobserver.com

Roy Cooper’s Twitter account released an 80-second video of him Tuesday titled “Gov. Cooper helping out in New Bern.” Another arrived from further south later in the day. “Governor Cooper in Wilmington today: ‘Together we can beat this thing and get through it,’” said the subject line.

Here’s the second video:

Each video shows Cooper shaking hands and helping victims and shaking more hands in areas helped by Hurricane Florence. They are well-crafted videos — the governor in action while the governor offers his thoughts on the storm and North Carolinians. But they also feel ... odd.

On Tuesday, more than a quarter-million households in North Carolina were still without power from Florence. Tens of thousands are piecing together their homes and lives. Do we really need videos that seem like they were brought to us from the Campaign to Re-elect Roy Cooper?

Cooper is far from the only politician to do this. We initially couldn’t find similar videos of former Pat McCrory touting his leadership during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but a Cooper spokesperson pointed us to some Thursday. Politicians have long grappled with if and how to campaign during catastrophies (including this year in the NC 9th Congressional district.) The reality for elected officials is that every public appearance, to some degree, is a de facto campaign ad. The trick is making it not seem like one. It’s looking like a leader without shouting “Hey, I’m a leader!”

Cooper and his video folks try to pull this off by having the governor talk about the people of North Carolina, their spirit and pulling through this challenge together. It might have worked if the governor didn’t end up in every frame of each video. Instead of a pep talk for North Carolina, we have something close to tacky so soon after the wind and rain.

Yes, the president did it, too, but we hope the governor has a higher bar for self-promotion than what Donald Trump does.

Cooper is doing a fine job leading his state in the aftermath of Florence. He should save the self-congratulatory video clips for when he’s running for re-election. Or at least wait until Florence’s floodwaters recede.

Correction: This post incorrectly said former Gov. Pat McCrory did not make similar videos in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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