Did Governor Pat McCrory duck critics by playing catch?
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Was Gov. Pat McCrory really in a meeting, or was he ducking critics?
The ABC11 I-Team asked the governor if a game of catch was more important than meeting with kids over education cuts.
The kids, and a former congressman, were dropping off thousands of petitions against McCrory's policies on Monday. So it was a good guess he wouldn't meet with them.
However, it's what he was doing instead, caught on an iPhone camera, which has people talking.
It all happened Monday at 4:15 p.m. when a group of more than 50 advocates against public education cuts, along with kids pulling little red wagons, met at the State Capitol to drop off a petition of 16,000 signatures.
They asked to see the governor, and were told he was in a meeting.
Here's where minutes start to matter. The time stamp on video of the delivery is 4:31 p.m. The person in the governor's office taking the petitions tells the group, led by former seven-term Congressman Bob Etheridge, "He's in a meeting and he's supposed to be in a meeting until about 5 o'clock today."
However, just 10 minutes later, a couple of people passing by see the governor outside the capitol playing catch.
"We kind of looked at each other and went, 'That's the governor. That's the governor right there,'" said Rose Higgins.
Higgins says the governor was tossing the ball around for a few minutes before they snapped their pictures just feet from where the petitioners had been rallying 20 minutes earlier.
"I think their mentality is, in your face, 'Na na na na na na. Have your little hippy protest and we're going to carry on with our day,'" said Higgins.
A spokesperson for Gov. McCrory tells ABC11 that the meeting he was in ended early, and by then the group was gone.
If so, they missed each other by minutes. ABC11 interviewed Etheridge outside the Capitol at 4:38 p.m.
"Well I would have thought he'd a come out and meet them and at least accept the petitions," said Etheridge. "But they said he was in a meeting. I accept that."
Behind Etheridge was a large group of people. They were still there gathered on the east side of the building. The time stamp on those pictures taken on the south side of the Capitol is 4:42 p.m. -- just four minutes later.
The governor's office insists the governor would have met the petitioners if the timing had worked, and they defend his right to take a few minutes to himself.
A statement from McCrory's Communications Director Kim Genardo reads, "Governor McCrory was in a meeting with an elected representative when computer-driven petitions collected by Progress NC-- a group that's part of the Blueprint NC group trying to 'eviscerate' the governor and other Republican elected officials dropped off the petitions around 4:20 p.m.
"The photo being circulated today by that liberal advocacy group was taken AFTER the petitions were dropped off at the Capitol.
"Taking the advice of First Lady Michelle Obama, the governor each day attempts to get some exercise, yesterday throwing the baseball and today walking from NC State's campus back to the Capitol.
"Governor McCrory will be back out tomorrow throwing the baseball perhaps with children who share his All-American passion."
The governor's people say this whole issue is making something out of nothing. Critics, however, say it shows how seriously the governor takes opposing viewpoints.
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