The North Carolina Republican Party apologized Thursday after one of its staff members incorrectly accused Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine of wearing a Honduras flag pin during his acceptance speech.
Kaine was wearing a Blue Star service flag pin, which indicates that the person bearing the pin has a family member in the military during a time of war or hostilities. He wore the pin Wednesday during the 2016 Democratic National Convention as he spoke about his son, 1st Lt. Nathaniel Kaine, an infantry officer serving with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. The younger Kaine recently deployed to Eastern Europe.
Kaine “wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful,” the state party tweeted as he was speaking. Kaine had worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.
Someone deleted the tweet Wednesday night. The following morning, North Carolina GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse apologized for the staff error on Twitter.
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In an email to McClatchy, Woodhouse wrote: “A young member of our staff made a mistake and it was immediately corrected. Period.”
Told that the N.C. GOP had apologized, N.C. Democratic Party Chair Patsy Keever said, “As well they should. They’re just looking for everything they can to try to make us look bad.” It’s not working, she added.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, called it a “nonissue” in an email.
“People make honest mistakes, and the NCGOP acknowledged their mistake,” he said.
But U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-Charlotte, criticized the Republican Party over the tweet. She said she was concerned about how someone residing in a state with the third largest population of military members in the country could mistake a one-star service flag with a five-star foreign flag.
“I thought it was just very inappropriate for them to do that,” Adams said. “… They obviously weren’t educated enough to know and they didn’t try to find out. They immediately started attacking.”
Woodhouse later posted an in-depth apology on his Facebook account.
“As the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, we offer our sincere and unqualified apology for the mistake made on Twitter last night regarding Gov. Kaine’s lapel pin,” he said. “The tweet was wrong on the facts, wrong in tone and should not have happened. We would like to offer a sincere apology to Sen. Tim Kaine, his family and his Marine son who is honorably serving overseas.”
The members of the staff involved with the tweet “are facing severe internal sanctions and mandatory retraining,” Woodhouse said.
The flag pin comment isn’t the only social media mistake that the North Carolina Republican Party has made during the convention season.
The party retweeted a post critical of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, over House Bill 2, which requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the genders on their birth certificates. The party later deleted the tweet.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong figures for the numbers of active-duty military members and veterans who live in North Carolina. There are 736,000 veterans and 129,049 active-duty service members.
Elizabeth Koh of McClatchy and Tim Funk of The Charlotte Observer contributed to this article.
Maggie Ybarra, 202-383-6048 @MolotovFlicker