Opinion: Hypocrisy and Fake News Abound at WRAL

Just how dumb do Democracy NC and WRAL think North Carolinians are?

Hypocrisy and fake news abound these days at North Carolina media outlet, WRAL.

Last week, the outlet dropped not one, but three separate reports on a story regarding a video studio located in the Lt. Governor’s office.

You can check them out below:

Bob Hall, although he announced his retirement Democracy NC, appears to still be the group’s mouthpiece of choice per the initial WRAL ‘story’:

“Seems to be, clearly, to inflate his visibility for some larger purpose,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a left-leaning advocacy group. “It doesn’t sound like it’s – it’s not part of the duties of the lieutenant governor.”

WRAL then had an excuse to do a second story and ‘inflate Hall’s visibility for some larger purpose’.

So, why three stories at WRAL? One purpose of this set of stories was to allow for unfounded complaints by far left non-profit, Democracy NC, to seem legitimate.  Because stories like the ones at WRAL and this one at the News and Observer are about creating a negative narrative about the Lt. Governor in the eyes of voters.

These reports – which amount to fake news –  aren’t about the concern of wrongdoing, they are about the concern that Forest will run for Governor in 2020.

About the Studio

The Lt. Governor’s office runs on a budget of about $50,000 a year. That $50,000 has to cover everything from paper clips to travel. This budget leaves little to no funds for communicating with the public.

The studio was created through donations made to the North Carolina Promotion and Development Fund, a 501(c)4.

The total cost was around $61,000 and the studio has been used by Forest’s office only in an official capacity with regard to his duties. Primarily, the studio has been used to communicate with the public on state topics such as education.

Despite WRAL’s report, it is not a ‘broadcast’ studio. There is no ability there to broadcast from the studio. The only similar feature that does exist is the ability to Skype from the location.

This studio was created over 3 years ago, yet now it is a ’cause of concern’.  It’s stood there for over three years and has garnered the same amount of media attention that the renovations to the Lt. Governor’s office located in the Hawkins Hartness House received four years ago – which is to say next to none.

One would think that renovations costing upwards of $600,00 would have brought reporters out of the woodwork. Moreover, that expense did not land on the taxpayers. Through donations of materials and local services donated by eight businesses, the Hawkins Hartness House went from run down and dangerous to proudly restored to glory.

One would think this would have been a story. But it wasn’t.

That’s right, no local media attention at all –  despite all major NC media outlets (including WRAL) being invited to the rededication ceremony for the house.

Of the 600 people who came, not a single reporter showed up. The result was a lone Associated Press article on the 2013 renovations appearing in the Jacksonville Daily News.

And consider for a moment that $61,000 juxtaposed against the estimated $600,000 in renovations. It’s a molehill vs a mountain. That kind of fiscal savings to the public is immense, so why would WRAL focus on the molehill? Hint: Because it attacks one of Forest’s major donors.

Also, one should ask what would stop the next Lt. Governor from soliciting donations in a similar manner to save taxpayer funds to maintain the property? The answer is nothing. This is not rocket science. This is being a good steward of the people’s money – a skill most of our nation’s politicians seem to have either forgotten or discarded.

WRAL and Hypocrisy

Readers are supposed to believe that the big concern by WRAL and Democracy NC is that an outside alleged ‘dark money’ group provided communication abilities to the Lt. Governor. There’s a whiff of hypocrisy here.

WRAL LOGO - CROPThis line of ‘concern’ begs the question, where does the Governor broadcast messages to the state from? Sometimes they’re prerecorded pieces at the Governor’s offices or mansion. Most times the Governor uses a studio located in the NC Museum of Natural History which was provided by a group outside of state government. That outside group is WRAL.

WRAL’s own reports on the studio note that nothing illegal has transpired. The North Carolina Promotion and Development Fund is not operating illegally nor are their funds being used for campaign purposes. The Lt. Governor has a separate studio to use for any campaign-related activities – which WRAL well knows.

[ Related: After Inquiry, WRAL Explains Missing Vote Count Article ]

One might recall the barrage of stories from when former Governor McCrory wanted to remove black mold from the second-floor bathrooms? It was costly – around $285,000. That series of events happened at the same time as the renovations to the Lt. Governor’s office.

One has to ask – How does one reconcile an alleged ‘major news outlet’ go from effectively chastising McCrory for using public funds to fix a serious issue to launching attacks on Forest for not using public money to fix a serious issue?

[ Related: WRAL Misses Mark on Dark Money Group Fundraiser ]

WRAL’s ‘stories’ elevate the concerns of a far left non-profit, but does not disclose that the station’s owner, Jim Goodmon, has given money to that non-profit in the past. Goodmon and his wife, Barbara, were donors to Democracy NC in the range of “$1,000 – $4,999” during the years 2006 and 2007.

Democracy NC and Goodmon

Jim Goodmon founded the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which according to annual Democracy NC’s annual, gave between “$5,000 to $9,999” to Democracy NC in 2008 and 2009, yet IRS 990 tax filings for years 2008 through 2010 made by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation do not list corresponding donations to Democracy NC.

Archived pages for the A.J. Fletcher website, however, do show Democracy NC on the Fletcher grant list for both years. Jim Goodmon has given money to that non-profit in the past. Goodmon and his wife, Barbara, were donors to Democracy NC in the range of “$1,000 – $4,999” during the years 2006 and 2007.

Democracy NC is one of the lead partners to BluePrint NC, the shadowy non-profit which formed around 2010 but set out in 2013 to “cripple, slam and eviscerate” any and all Republicans in North Carolina.

The A.J. Fletcher Foundation has been a financial backer of BluePrint NC to the tune of at least $1.7 million dollars. Blueprint NC was a donor to Democracy NC starting in 2008 and has been a regular donor since around 2013.

Just in one year, 2010, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation gave $35,000 to Blueprint NC and $380,000 to the NC Justice Center, which is the organization that formed Blueprint NC.

Again, WRAL, where are these disclosures in your reporting?

Let’s Talk More About “Non-Partisan” Bob Hall

Bob Hall is hardly anyone to be pointing ‘partisan fingers’ at anyone.  His partisan handiwork at the NC State Board of Elections has been well documented.

The investigation of Hall conducted by a right-leaning think tank, Civitas, showed a direct link between William Barber, the NC NAACP and Democracy NC using their connections to influence NC law and election policy behind the scenes.

Civitas uncovered that Bob Hall and  former director of the SBOE, Gary Bartlett, colluded to “use state employees and resources to launch a partisan attack on the Republican legislature.”

For years, and as recently as last year, Bob Hall has portrayed by media in North Carolina as a ‘non-partisan advocate for clean elections’.

In April of 2013, he testified as a ‘non-partisan advocate for clean elections’ in front of the legislature and was questioned by then NCGA member, Democrat Deborah Ross about voter fraud.

Just a few months later, Bob Hall the ‘non-partisan advocate for clean elections’ was seen yelling to a Moral Monday crowd about voter ID. Hall told the Blueprint NC backed Moral Monday crowd that Republicans in the General Assembly are “so scared of you they’re going to rig elections to stop you.”

Yes, so very ‘non-partisan’ of you, Mr. Hall.
Just like tooting your own fake news horn is ‘non-partisan’.

“Questions” the donation? Hardly. This is a laughably transparent, politically partisan attempt to turn a nothing burger into a weapon to be used in the 2020 election battlespace.

This article first appeared at American Lens News on November 22, 2017.


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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