From an editorial Tuesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:
It might have been one of the worst public appearances by an official in the history of North Carolina. And John Fennebresque, who was announcing the firing of the respected Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, said in a revealing Charlotte Observer profile that he hasn’t slept well since that day in January.
Fennebresque, who’d been without sleep due to his wife’s being ill, kept rambling about how great Ross was, how this wasn’t about partisanship, how he looked forward to working with Ross. But he never, and still has never, offered a credible explanation as to why Ross was being asked to retire. That’s not going to help build a pool of candidates to succeed him. Who’d want the job in a political whirlwind?
For all the denials about politics, it has long been clear that Ross was ousted because Republicans don’t like the idea of a Democrat having one of the state’s most prestigious and influential jobs. Fennebresque can deny that all he wants, but there is no other logical explanation, and it insults the public’s intelligence to try to obfuscate the reasons.
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But the key question now is what kind of president this board, some of whom are harshly partisan, will choose.
Fennebresque failed his first big public test back in January. He must not fail the next one.