In a letter running Sunday on the Observer’s opinion page, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory gave his version of a confrontation Feb. 16 with a cook at Reid’s Fine Foods, a gourmet food store and restaurant in Myers Park.
Drew Swope was fired after his run-in with the former Charlotte mayor. During the exchange, Swope said the governor yelled at him; a McCrory spokesman denied that the governor yelled and said the cook made an obscene gesture.
McCrory said he wanted to set the record straight on “the much-written about and discussed incident that occurred at one of my favorite Charlotte-area establishments.” The story attracted interest from many media outlets, including the U.S. edition of the British newspaper the Guardian, as well as MSNBC and an Atlanta TV station.
When he went to Reid’s with family members for lunch, McCrory wrote that “an employee said hello with one finger instead of five.”
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When McCrory responded with a “simple thank you,” the employee said “thanks for nothing,” McCrory wrote.
McCrory wrote that his response to such encounters as mayor and now governor “is typically a thank you for the feedback and a smile.”
In this instance, however, the store owner, Tom Coker, said McCrory and his security detail told him about the incident. Coker then fired Swope.
McCrory’s letter doesn’t address why he and his security team approached the store owner.
“In an era when even the president of the United States was insulted during the State of the Union address, we shouldn’t be rewarding those who behave inappropriately by giving them fame,” he wrote. “Perhaps more stories from the Observer should be about the vast majority of employees from the public and private sectors who every day care for and treat people with respect, customer service and dignity.”
McCrory said he remains focused on issues facing the state, such as bringing in more jobs and raising teacher pay.
“I also recognize that there are times when some people may disagree with our solutions,” he wrote. “We welcome feedback. But I would argue that one can be passionate about an issue and still maintain civility in the debate. We all witnessed hundreds of people helping others through random acts of kindness during the recent snowstorms. These are the people that deserve recognition by the Observer and I say thanks to all of them.”
Swope has said he never gave McCrory the finger.
“Absolutely not,” Swope said Saturday after being read a portion of the letter. “I have no idea what that man is thinking.”
Swope said he only told the governor, “Thanks for nothing,” and walked away. Swope said he doesn’t disagree with the owner’s decision to fire him, but he does question why McCrory and his security team complained.
Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, a Democrat, has said he’s talked to Swope to see whether he could help him find a job in the private sector.
Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed to this story.