Charlotte Republican Robert Pittenger bungled questions around two high-profile endorsements Monday, one day before the Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District.
Locked in an unpredictable race against Mark Harris and Todd Johnson, Pittenger claimed Donald Trump endorsed him when Trump might not have, and he said he was not claiming Mike Huckabee’s endorsement when in fact he was.
Pittenger sent an email blast Monday morning claiming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had endorsed him. “Thanks @realDonaldTrump!” Pittenger tweeted.
The endorsement, though, had come in the form of a tweet from NC Team Trump (@TeamTrumpNC), which is merely an account that supports Trump but is not actually Trump’s campaign.
Pittenger then told me that the endorsement had been confirmed by Scott Mason, the congressional liaison for Trump’s campaign. Pittenger’s strategists said they would try to get Mason to contact me to confirm, but he never did. Trump himself had not tweeted about it by Monday night. Trump’s North Carolina director, Earl Phillip, told the Observer’s Jim Morrill, “My comment is no comment.”
In an email forwarded to the Observer by the Harris campaign, Huckabee said he had spoken Monday afternoon to Trump campaign officials. “Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for the Donald Trump campaign confirmed that there was NO endorsement from Trump for Robert Pittenger,” Huckabee said.
The Huckabee “endorsement” is just as disturbing.
We posted an item Monday saying Pittenger had touted a Huckabee endorsement even though Huckabee is backing Harris. We had a statement from Huckabee in which he complained about Pittenger’s posting an endorsement from him. Huckabee explained that he backed Pittenger four years earlier and he had explicitly told Pittenger not to use that this time around because he was now backing Harris.
Even as we were looking at the endorsement on Pittenger’s website Monday, a campaign strategist told us, “Robert never had an endorsement posted from Huckabee.” Pittenger himself told me Monday, “No posting was ever made and no request was ever made to take it down.”
Pittenger sent an email to me saying: “Show me any current posting of Huckabee.” And: “There is zero evidence that we claimed an endorsement because we did not.”
So I sent him a page that was live on his website right then.
His strategists then sent an email showing that the campaign had in fact asked website producers to take down Huckabee’s endorsement on April 16. That was three weeks after Huckabee emailed Pittenger to tell him not to recycle his old endorsement. Huckabee issued his statement Sunday because the endorsement was still up.
Faced with all this, the Pittenger campaign never did take down the endorsement. Instead, they added a note Monday that said it was written on Dec. 11, 2013. That’s doing precisely what Huckabee asked Pittenger not to do in a March 27 email: Not to “recycle a 4-year-old statement.”
As late as Monday afternoon, Pittenger provided a link on his site to Huckabee’s supposed endorsement of him. That link went to Huckabee’s endorsement of … Mark Harris. – Taylor Batten