McCrory, who is now running for US Senate in a Republican primary, instead took a job as a local radio host where he made the comments, which were reviewed by CNN’s KFile as part of a look at the rhetoric he used after leaving office in 2017. McCrory was the governor of North Carolina from 2013 to 2017.
“The head of the policy school called me up and said, ‘Governor, we’ve got some problems. We’ve got some alumni and big donors that don’t want you to come back to Duke to be a part of this public policy school,'” said McCrory in January 2021, referring to a job at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
“You know what I said to him, I said, ‘If I come back to the, if I come back to the campus, will you serve me at the lunch counter?’ And I meant it.”
“Speaking about the ultimate blacklisting was the African American students from North Carolina A&T University who wanted to eat at the counter at Woolworths, the lunch counter. And they refused them. They were blacklisted because of the color of their skin,” added McCrory. “Other people are now being blacklisted because of our politics. And it’s both wrong. It’s both deplorable. And we’ve got to speak out against it.”
McCrory was referring to the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in protests that occurred in 1960 as a part of the civil rights movement. Four Black college students from the historically Black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into the F. W. Woolworth store and sat at the Whites-only lunch counter where they were refused service. The students, who were later joined by dozens and then hundreds of other protesters, were finally served after six months of nonviolent demonstrations, sparking similar peaceful demonstrations across the country.
Earlier in the segment, in which McCrory and his guest spoke about conservatives and alumni from the orbit of former President Donald Trump being “blacklisted,” McCrory said Duke originally intended to invite him to be a part of the public policy school, but only rescinded it after faculty and students protested.
“I was blacklisted by Duke University, I was — every former governor of North Carolina was invited to work in the Public Policy School of Duke University, the Terry Sanford Public Policy School — former governor,” McCrory said. “And so I went and talked to them and they said, ‘We’d love to have you help us out.’ And it wasn’t for money or anything. And within an hour of believing there were protests and signatures by both students and faculty signed up saying, ‘We don’t want Pat McCrory back on the Duke University campus anymore.'”
Jordan Shaw, a spokesperson for the McCrory campaign, told CNN that McCrory’s comments were clear and that “he has seen first-hand the way the far-left uses cancel culture to advance their extreme agenda.”
“Gov. McCrory moved to Greensboro in 1966 and was very aware of the profound impact the Woolworth sit-ins had on that community and the nation,” said Shaw. “Those students were and are heroes to him because they stood up against the ultimate wrong. And their example drives Gov. McCrory to call-out cancel culture where it exists today, whether in politics, religion, academia, business, or media.”
A spokesperson for Duke University told CNN that it was inaccurate of McCrory to say that “every former governor of North Carolina was invited to work in the Public Policy School of Duke University” and declined to comment further.
The former North Carolina governor lost his reelection bid in 2016 in the wake of controversy following his signing of HB2, commonly referred to as “the bathroom bill.” The bill required that individuals at government-run facilities statewide use the bathroom corresponding with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill’s considerable backlash led to economic boycotts from consumers and companies costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a 2017 analysis.
The controversial law was eventually repealed in 2017 by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who defeated McCrory in 2016.
McCrory is running in a competitive primary, which includes Rep. Ted Budd, who was endorsed by Trump last year. Last month, the Club for Growth Action, the political arm of the conservative organization Club for Growth, which has backed Budd in the primary, ran a TV attack ad twisting and dishonestly editing McCrory’s past comments on his radio show about Trump and his supporters. As CNN’s Daniel Dale wrote at the time, the ad deceptively chopped up McCrory’s quotes, and framed them with misleading images, to make him seem like an anti-Republican hypocrite who supported violence at Black Lives Matter demonstrations while broadly condemning Trump supporters.
As CNN reported in December, Cheri Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as the state’s Supreme Court chief justice, is the prohibitive favorite in the race for the Democratic nomination given her name recognition, fundraising and endorsement advantages over the remaining candidates.