N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop took to Twitter Wednesday night to criticize what he calls “jihad media” reporting on the state budget bill.
Bishop, a Charlotte Republican and former state House member, is best known as the lead sponsor of last year’s House Bill 2. His critique came in response to a News & Observer reporter’s tweet about budget cuts to the office of Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and a link to an article about the budget.
“Petty, jihad media, carrying water as always,” Bishop wrote. “Torqued up over 3 hundredths of one percent of the general fund budget. Because, their boy.”
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Bishop also used the phrase “jihad media” in tweets referring to national news stories from CNN and The Associated Press.
Questioned about his use of the term “jihad” – typically associated with terrorism by Islamic extremists – Bishop defended the comment in additional tweets.
“How can I ‘disagree’ with a ‘news’ story?” Bishop wrote. “Isn’t it supposed to be facts? Or is it a jihad: ‘any vigorous, emotional crusade’?”
He continued his defense of the comment Thursday morning: “What is the right term for media so partisan their support for free speech is selective?”
Bishop’s initial tweet referred to a $10 million, 10 percent cut to the state Department of Justice, which Stein says will force him to lay off 123 full-time employees from his technology support staff, human resources office or attorneys.
Senate budget writer Harry Brown said the cut was motivated by budget priorities, not politics – an effort to free up funding to hire more local prosecutors.
On Twitter, Bishop suggested the cuts were directed at an “AWOL AG” who hasn’t been doing his job. He did not elaborate further.
Senate leader Phil Berger’s office issued a statement Thursday that was critical of Bishop’s choice of language.
“While Sen. Berger wouldn’t have used those words, he certainly understands Sen. Bishop’s frustration with the overt liberal bias of some of the state’s reporters,” Berger spokeswoman Shelly Carver said in an email. “It would probably be helpful for all sides to tone down the over-the-top rhetoric against those involved in various forms of public service, including so-called religious leaders using incendiary terms like ‘all-white extremists,’ ‘hijackers,’ and ‘criminals’ to describe public officials. We have not seen the media hold those people to account.”
Carver’s email linked to a recent N&O story about N.C. NAACP president William Barber, who called on Republican legislators to stop all business and draw new district maps. Barber called legislative Republicans “the all-white, extremist caucus that has hijacked the Republican Party.”
Bishop’s initial “jihad media” comment prompted criticism, with some saying the language is part of a national trend of inflammatory rhetoric.
“Good to see that intemperate political rhetoric by elected public officials has been clearly excised after last week’s tragedy,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College in Salisbury.