and it's the Southern Environmental Law Center's fault, says DAG McCrory and his posse.
[Cross-posted from BackwardNC]
Let's be clear that this bridge failure is a very serious matter, and it's a very serious issue for residents and visitors of NC's Outer Banks.
Yet the NC GOP response to the discovery that the bridge is unsafe for travel is curious. They blamed the SELC, who has a long-running lawsuit against the state regarding a planned replacement bridge. They blamed the SELC loudly, immediately, and in perfect harmony with one another. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata took the lead, showing his Fox News commentator skills:
“These ivory tower elitists file these lawsuits from their air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill. And they do so with their lattes and their contempt, and chuckle while the good people of the Outer Banks are fighting hard to scratch out a living here based on tourism and based on access.”
The Twitterverse lit up with at least half a dozen legislators, including the Tillisberger, tweeting the GOP talking point of blaming the SELC.
— Senator Phil Berger (@SenatorBerger) December 6, 2013
The infamous John "Obama is a Muslim" Torbett even incoherently attempted to get a torch-bearing mob together (at least we think that's what he meant with this incoherent tweet):
#ncga Asking all my citizen minded friends in the NCGA and home to call for the end of SELC's Econ killing frivolous law suits. Folks first.
— John A. Torbett (@JohnTorbett) December 7, 2013
And apparently it's working.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has received “multiple threats” after state officials blamed the organization for the shutdown of the bridge, the group said in a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday.
Let's put aside for a moment the merits of the SELC's lawsuit and our opinions about who has the best plan for a replacement bridge, which everyone agrees is needed.
The SELC's lawsuit might or might not have delayed beginning construction of a replacement bridge, depending on who you believe. But regardless, the SELC's lawsuit did not cause the state of North Carolina to allow the current bridge to deteriorate to an unsafe state. The SELC didn't cause anyone to forgo preventative maintenance or repairs to the current bridge.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it would be pretty easy for one to imagine a conspiratorial plot to "discover" problems with the bridge and use that as leverage to attack the SELC and pressure them to drop their lawsuit. It does seem a little strange that, in the initial waves of this crisis, one of the first things the public officials worried about was placing blame on SELC. And the anti-SELC messaging was immediate, aggressive and clearly coordinated.
My fair lady.