North State Journal, staffed by former DEQ and McCrory employees, joins governor in attacking Ken Rudo

By: - August 4, 2016 2:41 pm

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This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. As reader Greg Flynn commented below, the writer of the North State Journal article is Jeff Moore, who worked for the McCrory administration and for the state Department of Commerce. More on his résumé, which includes organizing a parade, farther down in the story.

Conservative attacks on state toxicologist Ken Rudo continue, now by The North State Journal  in an article today. However, NSJ’s veneer of objectivity cracks once you realize that three of its staff members, including publisher Neil Robbins and editor Drew Elliot, are former employees of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Elliot, Robbins and NSJ communications director Sarah Lindh served under former DEQ Secretary John Skvarla, an appointee of Gov. Pat McCrory. Skvarla, now at the Commerce Department, was known for taking unscientific stances on sea-level rise and renewable energy.

Elliot was DEQ’s communications director; Robbins, the agency’s legislative liaison; and Lindh, a legislative assistant.

Jeff Moore, who wrote the article, spent two years in Commerce — half of that time under Skvarla — and worked for 16 months in Gov. McCrory’s office in constituent services. He also was the project manager for the governor’s inaugural parade.

From Moore’s LinkedIn page: “During my time in the Governor’s Office I worked diligently to represent Governor Pat McCrory well, and hope to continue to serve the State of North Carolina in progressively higher contribution roles. My commitment comes from a sincere dedication to Individualism, laissez-faire capitalism and a desire to unleash the potential of enterprising North Carolinians.”

For further evidence that NSJ and McCrory are in a mutual admiration society, the McCrory campaign used NSJ as its propaganda arm, tweeting a link to the article, “DHHS worker who accused McCrory has history of scientific feuds.” But @TeamMcCrory added that Rudo “has a history of lying.”

The TeamMcCrory twitter handle describes itself as “rapid response, fact checks and updates from North Carolina Governor @PatMcCroryNC

While the NSJ article focuses on a 1997 disagreement over what was said in a phone call between Rudo and an N.C. State University scientist named JoAnn Burkholder, it’s far-fetched to say one incident nearly 20 years ago constitutes a “history.”

Scientific disagreements — and yes, even feuds — are common.

Last week, details emerged about a dispute among Rudo, top DEQ officials and Gov. Pat McCrory, over how to inform owners of private drinking wells about contamination from coal ash.

Rudo recommended a more strenuous warning for hexavalent chromium, while DEQ and McCrory wanted vague and mild language. There is no federal drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium, but the EPA is currently reviewing the science to determine if it should establish a maximum level in order to protect human health.

According to a deposition Rudo gave to the Southern Environmental Law Center, McCrory allegedly leaned on Rudo about the language in a phone call that included the governor’s communications director, Josh Ellis.

McCrory has denied he talked to Rudo, and sent out a spokesman to discredit the 27-year state employee at a late-night press conference. At that event, McCrory, through his chief of staff, Thomas Stith, claimed that Rudo lied under oath.

That claim carries a hefty legal burden of proof. Lying under oath is a crime. However, no perjury charges have been filed against Rudo.

The North State Journal, a print newspaper on Sunday and a digital news outlet the rest of the week, includes another conservative staffer, Donna King. She was Rep. Edgar Starnes’ policy and communications director, as well as a journalist.

In 2012, Starnes, was elected the Republican House Majority Leader, but left the General Assembly to work for the state treasurer’s office.

Starnes’ shining moment occurred in April 2013, when he and 10 Republican colleagues introduced a resolution that would have allowed the state to nullify any federal court ruling on any constitutional topic in North Carolina. The resolution failed.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.