McCrory's problem is real, not media hit job
Gov. McCrory claims that stories in the News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer that cover his intervening to save a contract for a big contributor are exaggerations with distorted headlines. According to an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer, this has become McCrory's fallback position: When confronted with a damaging story, blame the media. The issue with this particular story is that the media are just repeating what members of McCrory's own cabinet have reported.
McCrory did set up a meeting, which he attended, between friend and donor Graeme Keith Sr. and state prison officials, including Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry. Keith's company had a contract to do maintenance at some state prisons. Prison system leaders wanted to cancel the deal, citing security concerns.
A prison department memo said Keith opened the meeting saying "he had been working on this project 'private prison maintenance' for over 10 years and during that time had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return."
Perry, a retired FBI official, says the memo is accurate and Keith made similar comments to him on other occasions. McCrory says that although he was at the meeting, he never heard Keith say it.
And one more problem for the governor: The FBI is investigating the circumstances surrounding efforts to extend Keith's maintenance contract.
In a text, Perry protested the deal and called it a "very bad decision," adding that, "Sorry, but this will soil our Gov."
It is doing just that. McCrory needs to embrace the classic advice that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging. He needs to acknowledge that this doesn't look good, even if he's clean and above reproach. At the very least, this incident will confirm a lot of fears that the ages-old state government pay-to-play culture is still thriving.