A Charlotte mayoral candidate was called homophobic. His response stepped over the line. (Update: He apologizes.)

The Observer editorial board

Charlotte mayoral candidate and N.C. Sen. Joel Ford responded to a critic Tuesday with a video of a dog defecating.
Charlotte mayoral candidate and N.C. Sen. Joel Ford responded to a critic Tuesday with a video of a dog defecating. Twitter

If there’s one thing we’ve learned these past 12 months, it’s that people have wildly different expectations about the behavior of their elected officials. Used to be that although we like our leaders to be fighters, we didn’t really want them to hit below the belt. Then Donald Trump ran for president, and all the rules went away.

We still believe some lines shouldn’t be crossed, however, and we think N.C. Sen. Joel Ford just stepped over a few. Ford, who’s running for Charlotte mayor, posted a distasteful photo Tuesday night during a Twitter conversation that included a couple of critics. The post was unbecoming of someone who says he’d like to lead our city. We wonder now if he’s ready for the responsibility.

Here’s the background: Late Tuesday, Ford joined a Twitter conversation because one of the participants called him “homophobic.” That’s fine – public officials and private citizens shouldn’t hesitate to defend their reputations, although we might have opted for something different than Ford’s response, which was a GIF of a person looking confused.

As happens often on Twitter, someone else joined in – in this case, Charlotte LGBT advocate Matt Comer, who has been critical of Ford on LGBT issues in the past. Comer, in his tweet, said he preferred former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory’s “cold shoulder” to Ford’s GIFs and memes.

Ford’s response: A video clip of a dog defecating on the ground.

Ford, contacted by the editorial board Wednesday, says he sees more than that: “It is a dog who is being creative, who doesn’t want to get wet or cold, using the bathroom.”

Ford also said he made the post because “I’m not anti-LGBTQ or homophobic.”

(Update, 12:10 p.m.: Ford has deleted the tweet. He also posted an apology in which he reiterated that he “fully supports LGBTQ rights and equality,” but said of his tweet: “It was inappropriate and for that I am sorry.”

His campaign manager, Dakota Cary, told WFAE that Ford’s campaign will consider creating a list of approved GIFs for him to use.)

Certainly, we understand it’s not pleasant to be criticized, especially when you believe it’s unfair. We also understand the temptation that Twitter offers for snarky responses to snarky barbs. But a North Carolina senator needs to resist that easy satisfaction, and a prospective mayor of Charlotte needs to understand that criticism is a part of the job. In fact, it will be more frequent and more biting than what Ford faced Tuesday. Is he equipped to respond the way a leader – or even just an adult – should?

North Carolina’s legislature passed a law that prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The law — House Bill 2 (HB2) — has incited a state-wide civil liberties battle. He