The Tar Heel State’s conservative propagandists love making hay out of nothing (it’s only “nothing,” of course, if we place conspiracy theories to the side).

The John W. Pope Civitas Institute has their staffers working to paint newly appointed University of North Carolina System President Thomas Ross as a “leftist”, “liberal activist” with ties to ACORN, Planned Parenthood, Equality North Carolina and other progressive organizations. They even go as far to attack as “left-wing” the respected Winston-Salem-based Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

In part one of their impending soon-to-be three-part “expose” on Ross, Civitas’ Andrew Henson details the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s contributions to ACORN. In part two, Jessica Anderson attacks Ross for the Foundation’s contributions to Planned Parenthood, Equality North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Community Action. Civitas is promoting their staffers’ writings on their websites front page, entitled “UNC President Scandal.”

Of course, there’s absolutely no scandal here and nothing wrong with any of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s contributions especially given its mission — “to improve the quality of life of the people of North Carolina” — and its granting focus: “Community Economic Development, Environment, Pre-Collegiate Education, Social Justice and Equity, Strengthening Democracy.”

Amazingly, Civitas staffer Anderson is somehow shocked over the Foundation’s grant to the North Carolina Lambda Youth Network.

She writes, “Financially giving to groups like NC Lambda Youth Network, a ‘youth-led statewide leadership development network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied (LGBTA) young people, ages 13 to 24,’ is most alarming as he will oversee 200,000 students in the UNC system beginning in January 2011.”

Excuse me, but when did leadership development for young people — no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity — suddenly become “alarming”? Don’t North Carolina’s conservatives want all young people to succeed in life, or is that a privilege reserved for the heterosexual majority?

But, more to the point: Exactly what “scandal” are they talking about? Exactly how does the Foundation’s granting history have any effect or bearing on Ross’ appointment to the UNC System presidency? How will it prove to cause a “more openly liberal, partisan direction coming from the [UNC System]”?

We don’t know those answers, really. Since Civitas is light on the details and heavy on the fear-mongering, race- and gay-baiting rhetoric, we’re left to simply wonder and guess for ourselves.

Making solid, intelligent arguments, it seems, continues to be a problem for North Carolina’s radical right.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

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